90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Mentors For A New Career

Want to start a new career? A new business? We have the ready mentors for you. With real world advice.

This June 3, 2013 photo shows chef Dominique Ansel making Cronuts, a croissant-donut hybrid, at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. (AP)

This June 3, 2013 photo shows chef Dominique Ansel making Cronuts, a croissant-donut hybrid, at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. (AP)

It’s been a wild economic ride for years now.  Or just a grind for many, just hanging on, hanging in.  Maybe you’ve dreamed of throwing over the plod of a dull career.

Maybe you’ve been thrown.  Pushed by dreams or necessity into starting something new.  A new career, a new line of work.  A new coffee shop, or hair salon, or organic farm, or app factory.  What’s it really take to make a go of it?  The nitty-gritty requirements?

Most people don’t know.  But you can ask.  Find a mentor in the biz.  Get a leg up.

This hour, On Point:  What it really takes to chase that new dream, make that change.

- Tom Ashbrook


Brian Kurth, founder & CEO of Pivot Planet and Pivot Enterprise, two online services that match mentors in different fields with people looking to start a new career in those fields. (@briankurth7)

Kathy Krepcio, executive director of the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. (@krepcio)

Duncan Goodall, a PivotPlanet mentor and owner of Koffee on Audubon, a coffee shop in New Haven Connecticut.

Melissa Owen, co-owner with her husband Gerry of the Fourteen-Eighteen Coffee House.  They were mentored by Duncan Goodall via PivotPlanet. Former operating room nurse.

Samantha Swaim, a PivotPlanet mentor and head of her own event planning and charity fundraising firm, Samantha Swaim Fundraising.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Taste-Testing a Second Career, With a Mentor – “PivotPlanet lists mentors in about 200 fields, from acupuncturist to pet therapist to television host. Want to be a meteorologist? Paul Cousins of Portland, Me., will Skype you some advice for $84 an hour. Want to be a winemaker? The site lists four mentors. Interested in becoming a ‘tiny home builder’? Brad Kittel, in Luling, Tex., will show you how.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Things to consider before changing careers – “Before changing careers, it’s best to sit down and honestly assess what is motivating your potential move. If you harbor a strong desire to pursue a passion and make it your career, then changing careers is probably something you must do. But if you are changing careers because you feel slighted by a current employer or you feel like changing for the sake of change, then you might want to reconsider.”

Forbes: How To Reinvent Yourself Into A New Career – “Changing careers and reinventing yourself isn’t easy – particularly when you’re passionate about a new field with no clearly-defined point of entry. But as Yost’s experience shows, being clear about your goals and steadily moving forward on your plan can get you there. How are you reinventing yourself?”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Coastghost

    Career? “Career”? What a quaint word. Dated concept, too, these days and times, for most or many people. Surely, boredom remains an occupational affliction.
    The ability to remain versatile and the talent for being mercenary are needed to navigate the “two-careers-per-decade” labor environment that shows no sign of abating. Remaining single helps much with mobility and relocation, duh. Willingness to accept reduction in pay to accomplish a transition can be commendable. Working two or more gigs simultaneously sometimes can’t be helped. Returning to a field you’d thought or hoped you’d left can occur, so never acquire the talent for burning bridges unless you’re well-equipped to rebuild. Networking is no more reliable than initiative. Having a place to return to is priceless. Continuous learning is as inevitable as death, although the former requires paying attention.
    So I can launch a new career as a mentor? Do tell.

  • ToyYoda

    Nice. I am in engineering. Why did you decide to become a teacher? Teacher’s pay is less, and you often have to play politics whereas if you kick-butt as a engineer, you have a fairly secure job w/o politicking.

    • Al

      Well, it did feel secure, but after 15 years, it wasn’t as satisfying anymore. I needed a new challenge – other engineering jobs looked like more of the same. No two classes are the same in teaching, and I get to share my love of science and engineer activities for the students. It’s only been a month now, but I do think the students enjoy having something physical to work on (and so do I).

      Never a boring moment!

  • John Cedar

    $84 an hour for meteorologist advice? I have progressed through a few careers in my life and I received the most advice and best advice for free, just for asking. Most of the people who have succeeded at what I was trying to succeed at were more than happy to talk about themselves and their journey…at no charge.

    • AC

      i don’t think people realize how in-depth/difficult meteorology as a research science is. it’s a no joke major. that $84 is prob more like a tutoring fee.

    • ToyYoda

      The best advice is free, provided that you aren’t looking for it. I like to pick people’s brains just because I’m curious about things and about them.

      If you have an interest in *them* as opposed to seeking information to help you succeed, well people are grateful for the attention and are more than willing to tell you their stories of wins and losses.

  • J__o__h__n

    If anyone says mentee instead of protege, I’m turning off the radio.

    • Coastghost

      You mean you couldn’t be otherwise incentivized?

      • J__o__h__n

        As you used that to provoke me, I’ll excuse it. I hate it when people think it makes them sound like an economist.

        • geraldfnord

          She saw the word ‘mentor’, and suddenly thought you should be ribbed for her pleasure.

          • Coastghost

            Correction: “Coastghost” is masculine gender. (I’d be identifiably feminine by my usage if I went by “Coastghostess”.)

      • geraldfnord

        Meh, he’s literally too impacted by how that word leverages his affinities, begging the question of how any mentor could help him grow his core competencies…ironic, isn’t it?

        • J__o__h__n

          Stop that or I will have to dialogue with you to take ownership of your efforting to language better.

  • J__o__h__n

    Has anyone had a cronut? The last time I was in NY I considered getting one before I learned the line took two hours. Then I heard there was a resale market and it might be worth it to eat one and sell one.

  • creaker

    The one thing that always sells well – taking money from people on the promise they will (eventually – possibly – if they do it right – if they are lucky) make even more money.

    • Miss_Lilianna

      Sounds like the tuition I’m paying. If I would know what I know now about retirement, rota iras, etc. I could have just worked as a waitress at a nice restaurant and still lived a solid middle class lifestyle without the stress of loans and being a corporate professional

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    I’ve worked a long time for architects, doing CAD and design work; as well as doing IT work on computers. I’ve been “self employed” as a contractor doing these for the last 8+ years or so.

    Early in 2010, I started designing a 5 seat electric car, that using very low aerodynamic drag, I hope will be able to go 300-400 miles on a charge. That is with a battery pack ~55kWh, which is slightly smaller than the 60kWh Tesla Model S, that has a 200 mile range.

    There are at least two examples of electric cars that can go 200+ miles on ~32-33kWh packs, so I just need to match them for consumption per mile, and my CarBEN EV5 will have a range of over 310 miles. If my car is lower drag than those, then I could get even more range.

    My design is open source – I am sharing it with anyone who wants to build it. Once it is tested, we can improve the design and the methods of construction can be streamlined, and costs can come down.

    I am about 2 years away from finishing construction of the first prototype. It has been slower than I’d hoped – mainly due to the fact that I have been self funded. I need to start a crowd funding campaign to get things moving more quickly.

    • ToyYoda

      Have you tried kickstarter.com?

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        I will probably try them first, though I’ve been told they don’t do electric car projects. IndieGoGo is my next choice.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Good luck Neil.

      Following your passion with hard work will usually lead to good things — sometimes in unexpected ways.

    • Michele

      I think there’s a lot of pent up demand for this kind of car. I too have an architecture background and work for a sustainability firm. Many of my colleagues would love a long range, affordable, electric car. Love the Tesla SUV but not the sticker price. Hope you can get funding! Maybe you can position your company with the opposite business model from Tesla. A more affordable, ubiquitous car for the masses starting at the lower end of the market instead of selling a few at a high price and bringing down the cost slowly as sales pick-up. Although I’m sure ramping-up production is quite costly…

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        I want to build them like Habitat for Humanity builds houses. Help build one and learn, and then get help building yours.

        Tesla has done a smart thing – they have sold a lot of people on how wonderful an electric car is. They will build more affordable models – and they have pushed GM toward doing the same. I just hope that Nissan and Mitsubishi and VW and Ford and others do the same.

        The thing about building as efficient car as you can – it is less expensive, because the battery is smaller than it would be otherwise.

  • Coastghost

    “Gee, I always wanted to be an exhilarated, excited dogwalker.” Is gravity overtaking discourse this early in the hour?

  • GP

    I have been an environmental scientist for the last 2 years. I switched from being a marine biologist because I was tired of being at sea all of the time. I am miserable in my current career, but I am trying to accept it and find some peace with it. In my heart, I know I want more from my career. I feel the job market is incompatible with “following your dreams”. I really want to be a research biologist, but this would require more education than my BS in Biology. I don’t know if I should go for it and take on the debt and risk, or just try to be satisfied with my current job.

  • AC

    i would like to do more research and development studies, but those jobs bill to overhead and go to senior people. i’ve only been on one in the seven years i’ve been with my current company :(

    • ToyYoda

      7 years at company. It sounds like you need to go to another company to do the same thing, for more pay and more responsibility. It’s a lot easier than getting what you want at your current place. This is a very typical move that people do.

  • Coastghost

    How will implementation of the Affordable Care Tax Act weigh upon this burgeoning class of entrepreneurs?

  • Tom Ingrassia

    I have a new book out this week–One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity By Following Your Dreams. Many of the people profiled in the book are entrepreneurs who triumphed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles to live into their dreams, and now run successful businesses. The first step is believing in yourself. Then you have to have a vision of an expansive, powerful and possible future for yourself. In my coaching, I employ guided visualization to help my clients achieve their vision.
    Tom Ingrassia
    The MotivAct Group
    Holden, MA
    Author of One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity By Following Your Dreams (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing)

  • Jo Bleaux

    The rubric for this show should be “mentorship for opening a coffee shop.”
    Twenty minutes in, I’m hearing nothing that applies to my situation of having to find a new career after several decades working in an area that’s now obsolete.

    • ToyYoda

      Well, what is your situation?

  • Melissa Mangino

    I have been in the field of education throughout my 17 year career in many different capacities. The last 7 in education sales. I not only hated it, but I wasn’t good at it. I was layed off in 2010 from one of the companies and was unemployed for 14 months. I went to a career change expert – spent thousands of dollars, and he ended up pushing me back into sales. I didn’t last a year -I quit to pursue m y passion which is education (really enjoyed the Diane Ravitch show.) All I want to do is work in education policy in some capacity. I am broke, substitute teaching doesn’t pay the bills. Credit debt has accumulated from all of my time without employment. I apply apply apply and barely can get interviews. Help??

    • Jo Bleaux

      Yes, not everyone is good at sales or other aspects of business. And following your dreams only works if you dream of something that actually can make money.

    • ToyYoda

      You like education, but what for what audience? Just kids? That’s tough.

      You know, you can also educate adults. Plenty of companies hire educator-minded (Note: not educators) to teach their customers how to use their complex product. If you get such a gig, and you climb the ladder, you can also set the education policy for that company.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Sounds like you are drowning in despair. Living in debt is a weight on the psyche. You need to eliminate the weight first, so that you may take flight. Remember, they call it work for a reason. There are always jobs that others aren’t willing to do. Taking one of these jobs will allow you to develop cash flow and allow you to regroup. Consider going to where the jobs are, a different state, city or country. Marriage is the answer for some. Just because you couldn’t make it in educational sales doesn’t mean you can’t make it in “say” , medical sales or widgets. So, you want to educate! Take a look at 3D printing companies. Three dimensional printing is poised to become “the next big thing”. Billions to be made. But how? People will need to taught how to use these machines, won’t they ? The resume thing is often a dead end. You need to talk to real people and sell yourself. Walk in like you own the joint but like someone that others want to get to know. I know it is tough, I’ve been there. I am in your corner ! You go girl !

  • George

    It seems very difficult to reinvent your career if it is non-entrepreneurial. I’m 25 and graduated with a degree in radio production, actually, but encountered an unrelated and well-paying opportunity in business for a large company right after graduation. Although I’m grateful they took the chance on me, I find myself wanting to get back to radio. Now, all the positions I find are either internships for students only or require 2-3 years of radio work experience. I’m two years out of college and now feel my “amazing opportunity” has led me into job lock at this age. Quite a depressing thought.

    • ToyYoda

      Why not try internet radio? It’s a way to get your feet wet, and you don’t have to have a lot of financial liability.

      I’d be a little more open. Try podcasting, or even youtube segments featuring audio and maybe some video. This way, you can work it into your daily schedule, and not feel so pressured to come up with material on a rigid schedule.

      Then, after awhile you can take a leap if you think you can make it.

      • George

        That’s a good idea. I’ve done a bit of stuff on my own in the past, but maybe it’s time to give it another go. I actually do think I could “make it.” Many of my professors said I had a knack for broadcasting, but I stupidly decided to chase money after graduation, thinking radio just wouldn’t pay the bills. Now I know it was my true passion. I’m hoping I can make it back, and I know I would put in the hard work to take any talent I have and make it. Here’s hoping I get the opportunity. Thanks for the comment.

  • LCreader

    About 30 years ago, I left big corporate life in NYC (of my own volition), and moved north, worked for a time for other folks, then took the opportunity (and financial risk) to open my own business – a small downtown retail shop. After 16 years doing this, I’m hoping to find an entrepreneur willing to take this business to its next level so I can pursue my next plan… Does Pivot Planet – or any other resource connect existing businesses with entrepreneurs who don’t want to start from scratch?

  • Miss_Lilianna

    I learned in a finance class that when you want to start a business you can only borrow money from the “three Fs”.

    1. Friends
    2. Family
    3. Fools

    Because the failure rate is so high!

    • skelly74

      Would you like to buy some knives? Do you have a steel pipe lying around?

      • Miss_Lilianna

        HAHA Vector

  • creaker

    It would have been nice if the topic was broadened a bit – this sounds like an infomercial for PivotPlanet

    • Jo Bleaux


  • The Student Compass

    I recently started a College and Career Mentoring program as a non-profit to work with high school and college students on thinking about their interests, skills and talents as a foundation to gain greater self-awareness and develop a career plan. It takes years of building a personal “portfolio” to develop skills and a network to successfully maneuver into a career that gives a student a solid starting point. The real trick is to continue to get training and re-evaluate trends and one’s circumstances to position for the shifting employment/entrepreneurial environment coming down the pike in the near and distant future. And so “know thyself” is elemental to finding one’s career and developing the network, and internships, being adaptable and realizing up-training ones skills are all essential to success. There is no easy way to do this right. It takes time and practice.

  • MsAbila

    The advice of mentors has traditionally been free of charge. We can be mentored at our workplaces, the places where we volunteer, and even at home.
    As individuals we need to be aware that we can learn skills, even specific skills, everywhere we are.

    Also, let’s not overlook community college courses. They are a fraction of the costs that this company charges for a few hours of conference calling or skyping with someone who claims to have special skills.
    Also, during the program there was little mention of the need for an individual’s initiative of learning about a new interest/career in the first place and then find a mentor.
    SCORE is a great free source of information and mentors to help anyone with a business idea. I’m glad it was mentioned on the program.

  • Michele

    To Matt in Dracut (caller): You may be better served by going to the State of Mass or a local source to help you write a proposal. I live in Conn. and right in my town we have a group of professionals who will help would-be entrepreneurs to develop proposals and businesses. Massachusetts must have similar services. Additionally,NYC has an entire library branch devoted to helping people get businesses off the ground (The Science, Industry and Business Library – SIBL). Best of Luck.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    It is all part and parcel with the situation I am in. I’m not seeking funding here; but it is an important part of starting your own business.

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment