I met John Spence a few weeks ago. He was smart, funny, generous with his advice and encouraging.
I didn’t actually meet him with a handshake, but rather a big smile and hello via my MacBook Pro screen one morning. He was at his desk in Gainesville, Florida, and I was in my home office in Washington, DC.
Our visit was arranged via PivotPlanet, a new virtual mentoring service, founded by VocationVacations’ Brian Kurth, author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide to Finding & Creating the Work You Love. PivotPlanet lets you connect with expert advisors via one-on-one video and phone conferences. More on how this works in a minute.
We talked for an hour. John is a professional speaker and author of Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas Into Action. His client list includes such top-drawer outfits such as: Apple, GE Capital, AT&T, IBM, and PepsiCo.
He delivers speeches to an average of 30,000 people each year mostly around the topic of leadership. Largest audience: 8,000.
And he makes an enviable income doing it.
Why I needed a virtual mentor
Here’s why I sought his help. I have a newly published book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons) and am eager to get the word out and teach and inspire experienced job hunters on ways to land a job today.
Sure, I’ve been a speaker on numerous occasions over my career to a wide range of audiences from my Shady Side Academy high school alumni group to the high-powered Executive Women in Government audience, delivering advice gleaned from my personal finance and career books such as The 10-Minute Guide to Retirement for Women, Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorcees and What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job. But I’m ready to really pump it up to the next level.
And I felt I needed some help from an expert on how to raise my profile as an expert professional speaker. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for counsel in my own networking wheelhouse who I felt comfortable asking. So I decided to test out PivotPlanet’s mentoring service.
I’m always preaching the benefits of mentoring.
I have a few mentors that I regularly turn to for help and advice, but this time I had a very specific area of expertise I was seeking to tap for guidance. We all need someone with experience and gravitas of whom we can ask questions without fear of looking stupid or putting our position in jeopardy.
Mentoring is a process
A good mentoring relationship grows organically over time. It takes nurturing. Almost universally, the workers I know who have made a successful transition to new work after age 50 had at least one person they could turn to when the ground got shaky. It was inevitably someone who was experienced with the ins and outs of the new line of work and could lend a verbal hand.
Finding an unpaid advisor, however, who has the time available to listen and counsel takes time and patience.
For the sake of time and desire to learn from one of the best on the circuit today, I was prepared to pay for counsel. John Spence’s willingness to sit down with me, a virtual stranger, for an uninterrupted hour was a time saver for me, but also let me make a connection with someone I may never have met otherwise. I suspect, I may learn more from him over time.
And that’s precisely what PivotPlanet has in mind. The mission of the new service is to offer easy access to expert advisors in hundreds of fields from acupuncture to financial planning to landscape design, and more to people looking to “pivot” from an existing career to another. “It’s networking and counseling for job seekers of all stripes—from aspiring entrepreneurs to people burned out in the corporate cubicle, and baby boomers planning encore careers,” Kurth says, “at a fraction of the cost of hiring a career coach.”
My session with Spence was billed at $120. But there are sessions with, say, a vet tech for $54 an hour.
Here’s how PivotPlanet works:
1. Set up a PivotPlanet account and link it to your Facebook or LinkedIn profile.
2. Send a message to an advisor requesting a one-hour live video or phone conference and provide up to 10 times and dates that work for your schedule. In-person mentorship sessions are also available. Work directly with PivotPlanet staff to schedule a full-day or half-day in-person session.
3. Your advisor will suggest three one-hour time slots for the conference, based on your preferences.
4. Accept and book one of the slots.
5. Have a list of questions ready to go and a pad and pen for note-taking.
6. Connect with your advisor for your video or phone conference.
Unlike Kurth’s VocationVacations, it’s not a two-day, get-your-toes wet sampler; it’s designed to help build a more concrete mentor relationship that can evolve over a series of sessions at regular intervals and on an as-needed basis.
For me, Spence hit it out of the park. I can’t attest for other advisors, but my experience was a good one.
Here’s some of his key professional speaking advice from our mentoring session.
• Don’t do anything for free. At the very least, get every client to make a small contribution in your name to your favorite local charity. It’s a nice way to make sure that they will take your speech seriously – and donate money to a charity you care about.
• Word-of-mouth referrals are the single greatest source of new speeches. Get in the habit of asking your customers to please send a personal note with a strong referral to anyone they feel would benefit from hearing the speech you just delivered for them.
• Check out the competition. The best way to determine your price range is to look at five or six other speakers who are talking about a similar topic, and are on just about the same level as you, and then simply figure out a price that is about 85% of the average.
I clicked out of our chat ready to roll with a list of action steps. Plus, Spence fired off an e-mail that summed up the advice he had given me and provided links to more information to help me increase my professional speaking platform. We now follow one another on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. See you from the stage lights.
By Kerry Hannon
Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon I’m the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons), available here www.kerryhannon.com. Check out my column at AARP. My weekly column at PBS’s NextAvenue.org is here.