Who’s in your corner?

Cheryl, Louis, Danii, Simon…who would you want as your mentor if you were on X Factor? And which of your family and friends would be in the audience, rooting for you?

Every week, millions of us are tuning into the X Factor live shows.  We watch the performances, see the contestants’ friends and family, meet the expert coaches and, of course, hear from the mentors. Each contestant is surrounded by a huge network of people helping them to succeed so it’s hardly surprising to see them blossom as the finals approach. But maybe it’s not just X Factor hopefuls that benefit from that kind of support.

“When we have a goal, surrounding ourselves with helpful, knowledgeable people can be a major factor in our success,” says David Gilchrist, a life and career coach based in London. Indeed, there’s lots of evidence to that say that if you have an ambition – whether you want to start a new career or own a business – having a good support network might mean the difference between success and failure. So, for those of us who aren’t on a prime time TV show but still have big ambitions, how do we create this support network ourselves?

The family and friends
It’s rare to see an X Factor contestant arriving at the auditions without an entourage of friends and family – but, according to David, our support network shouldn’t just be made up of people who always agree with us. “You should look to identify those people in your life who will help you appreciate your strengths and be honest about your weaknesses,” he says. “Talk to people who will tell you the truth, those whose opinions you truly value.”

The mentor
Mentoring is becoming increasingly popular, particularly in big organisations looking to help less experienced staff. And, while not every mentor will have Simon Cowell’s influence, a family friend or senior colleague whose opinion you respect could really help.  “In recent years people, particularly in their mid-twenties and beyond, have really switched on to the idea of working with a mentor or coach to help them move on to the next level,” says David. “Look for somebody who you can talk to but who doesn’t have the same emotional investment as family or close friends.”

The experts
In the coming weeks we’ll doubtless see lots of stars appearing on the show to give the contestants advice about what the future might hold.  Finding people who are already doing what we’re dreaming about is a great way of understanding the reality of what we’re aiming for. David explains: “It doesn’t matter how much you read, actually talking to people who can tell you what to expect is invaluable. Don’t just ask them about the positives; ask them what keeps them up at night and what the worst part of the job is.

The people in the same boat
X Factor might be a competition, but its contestants are still able to support each other because they are sharing the same experience. “People don’t often study or work by themselves so it seems odd that when it come to changing career or finding a job, we suddenly try and do it alone,” says David. Unless you want to do something really unusual, there are bound to be people in your area who are looking to do the same thing. Look for networking groups, or, if you can’t find one, don’t be afraid to set one up yourself.

Being strong
As well as identifying who is in your support network, you also might need to deal with those who aren’t so supportive?

The worried family
The issue: They disagree with your choice of goal or don’t think things are happening quickly enough.
David’s advice: “No matter what your age, your family always worries. They might have your best interests at heart but they can have a very different view of the world. What’s important to them might not be the same as what’s important to you. The trick here is to reassure them by providing information as you go along to show you’re making progress.”

The unsupportive partner or friends
The issue: Your friends or partner seem uninterested or don’t believe you’ll really do it.
David’s advice: “Sometimes those close to us can feel, consciously or subconsciously, that your success reflects badly on them. It makes them say things that undermine your confidence.  The way to deal with people like this is to choose your conversations – if they can’t show you the support you need then simply don’t talk to them about your goal.”

The ‘trying to be helpful’ people
The issue: You find yourself taking advice from people even though they might not be experts
David’s advice: “When you’re not sure what to do to reach your goal, it’s easy to find yourself following advice from anyone and everyone. But just remember, people might not always be right. Check what they’re saying before you take any major steps.”

David Gilchrist is a life and career coach based in London. You can contact him at david_s_gilchrist@hotmail.com. You can also read his careers blog at http://davegilchrist75.wordpress.com/.

By Katherine Bruce

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