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Mentoring for Career Change

Retail strategist Mercedes Gonzalez on helping people "test drive" their dream job.

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— Photo by: Ola Images/Getty Images

En español | Since 1998, Mercedes R. Gonzalez, 40, a fashion buyer and retail strategist who owns the Global Purchasing Companies in Manhattan, has opened her door to people interested in taking a peek at her professional world. Her connections are made through VocationVacations, a Portland, Oregon-based company that matches people who enjoy their careers with those eager to test drive their dream jobs for a few days. Gonzalez recently shared her experience as a mentor with AARP VIVA.

Q. How did you begin mentoring?

A. Brian Kurth, the owner of VocationVacations, and I have a mutual friend who thought it’d be a good idea for us to connect. When I heard what VocationVacations does, I thought it was brilliant.

When I was small, my dad would make us read the newspaper. One day, I remember him reading an article aloud to us that said something like 80 percent of workers hated their job. So I asked my dad, who was a barber, if he liked his job, and he said, “Are you crazy? I hate my job!” I knew then that my goal in life was not to be stuck doing something that I hated. Brian thought that the passion I had for my job would make me a good mentor.

Q. Who comes to you through the mentorship program?

A. Folks of all ages, from people in their 20s, straight out of college, to people in their 50s who say they feel stuck in their job and are ready for another type of experience. It’s great.They are people seeking out a real-world experience who are ready and willing to learn during their off time.

Next: Mentoring and learning the tools of the trade.>>

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