How Merit Can Unblock Your Career

We’re almost done with the first month of 2022, and the Merit team is taking time to reflect on 2021. We wanted to evaluate how well we’re…

We’re almost done with the first month of 2022, and the Merit team is taking time to reflect on 2021. We wanted to evaluate how well we’re measuring up to our mission of democratizing networking and professional development. We’re lucky to have a growing and active user base who can tell us — indirectly — what they’re gaining by using Merit.

When are people most likely to reach out for help from a mentor? At Merit, we’ve learned that when seeking mentorship, people want to debug their career — something isn’t working quite as expected, or they’re not sure how best to tackle a problem, or they really need advice before a big interview or presentation.

By the numbers, Merit ended the year with just over 3,000 users. Collectively, these mentors and members clocked in thousands of hours of sessions where they discussed career growth, skills development, and challenges at work.

With this many hours of sessions completed, we started wondering, if we’d gotten to listen in these Merit sessions, what were we most likely to hear? What kinds of advice were members seeking, and how did mentorship help them with their challenges?

Since we don’t record mentorship sessions, we reviewed the anonymized data from hundreds of sessions’ requests and feedback — where members write what they’d like to discuss in the session and share what they learned after. We also examined the “motivation” tagged to each session as well as the motivation’s associated “topic.” From this data, we’d gathered thousands of data points to look at to tell us more about why Merit members are seeking help on the platform and what they got out of their time on Merit.

Why were members seeking mentorship on Merit in the first place? Merit broke down these motivations into training, job searches, getting promoted, and finding emotional support. Most sessions (41%) were motivated by training, like learning how to launch products and measure success, developing product strategy, collaborating cross-functionally, writing documentation, and coding. This was closely followed by job searches (37%), where members might be considering changing roles, looking to break into tech, and receive practice mock interviewing. Members were also looking for advice on getting promoted (13%) and finding support (10%), whether it be as a woman in tech, someone working remotely, or navigating life post-merger or acquisition.

With training, where users want to level up their skills within their discipline, they were split fairly evenly between product vision and strategy (13%), launching products and measuring success (11%), UX and UI design (10%), year one in product (9%), and building a design process (9%).

Those looking for help with their job search were overwhelmingly seeking advice on breaking into tech (31%), getting resume and portfolio review (31%), and mock interviewing (30%). As a matter of fact, breaking into tech and mock interviewing were our two most popular session topics overall, both at 11%.

When people were searching for support, they overwhelmingly wanted advice on dealing with imposter syndrome (44%) and being a woman in tech (44%), two challenging areas for underrepresented groups in tech.

What were the most popular topics for these sessions across motivations? Just over half (52%) of all sessions were tagged to just one of seven topics:

  • Resume and portfolio review: 11%
  • Breaking into tech: 11%
  • Mock interviewing: 11%
  • Product vision & strategy: 5%
  • Launching products & measuring success: 4%
  • Being a woman in tech: 4%
  • Dealing with imposter syndrome: 4%

Based on this data, it seems like most folks on Merit are looking to enter tech — and get help with the nitty-gritty of doing so, like having a polished resume and acing the interview. After that, mentors and members are discussing two of the meatiest topics in software development: deciding what to build, getting your product to the market, and assessing how well it did. ****And as always, those in tech face the challenges of feeling like imposters and being part of underrepresented groups.

Beyond the topics and motivations tagged to sessions, the comments members wrote provided a few key insights:

  • We repeatedly saw members that members looking to break into tech wanted to discuss how to do so without a technical background.
  • For those members already in tech, we saw that switching disciplines can be an exciting opportunity. The most sought-after new role? Product manager.
  • Interviewing is hard! In a tie with breaking into tech, the majority of sessions were about mock interviewing, resume review, and interview prep.
  • Moving into a more senior role or being a manager for the first time is an opportune moment to reach out for mentorship and guidance.

Although many sessions were about breaking into tech or learning the building blocks of how to be a good product manager, designer, or software engineer, we also saw more senior folks looking to become better managers, learn how to build out teams, or level up their cross-functional influence. Based on these sessions, we noticed a cycle that folks seeking mentorship tend to follow: looking for a new job, building skills while in the job, getting career advice, looking for a new job or role.

Merit, although helpful for those early in their career looking to grow, serves tech workers over the course of their career, from the job search to getting promoted to leveling up their skillset. Finding mentors is something that spans the whole journey — we’re always moving between being able to mentor and needing mentorship ourselves.

After the session, our members left feedback highlighting how much they were able to learn from their calls with mentors. We wanted to include some key quotes from our members — how they’re using Merit, in their own words.

Job Search

“I recently got a job offer and wanted to discuss the opportunity. I’m looking to hear how you decide about making your next career move.”

  • Product Manager, US

“I’m currently looking to transition internally to an APM role, from platform engineering. I think, being an engineer comes with advantages but also disadvantages when transitioning to a product — specifically with how problems are approached.”

  • Software Engineer, Canada

Career Advice

“Looking to go through his first promotion cycle and is unfamiliar with how to make a case to his manager for getting the promotion”

  • Software Engineer, US

“I am interested in learning how to think about my career as a PM.”

  • Product Manager, US

Skills Building

“Methods around building a system/pipeline for handling injections / ad-hoc requests.”

  • Junior Software Engineer, US

“I’d love to get some advice on how to do a bit of roadmap planning given tighter constraints/budget. Essentially balancing improving the existing product and making intellectual progress on a few feature/product within the product.”

  • Product Manager, US

“I’m volunteering as a PM on a side project, would love to talk to you about tactics for communicating well with engineers and maintaining our sprint velocity”

  • UX Researcher, US

“I was just hired as the companies first UX Designer. I would love some guidance on how to start building processes and keep growing.”

  • UX Designer, Canada


“I learned how I’d be evaluated from a product design manager’s perspective on creative challenges, and also another way to think about these challenges and how I can create my own structure to showcase who I am as a designer and how I think.”

  • Product Designer, US

I learned how the design team works cross-functionally with PMs, Engineers, Researchers, and other Designers. Learning this from someone reputable and from an established company is great in benchmarking how I should work cross-functionally.

  • UX Designer, US

Landing a job and transitions

“Secondly, [the mentor] reassured me that getting a PM job is really hard. I am glad to learn from her transition from tech lead to PM and how she navigates through the job hunting process.”

  • Software Engineer, US

“I learned about the transition from finance to product, how the product differs at different stages of startups, what type of product roles to recruit for, and what traits define a successful PM.”

  • Product Manager, US

“As a career transitioner, I was not familiar with the typical software engineering data structures/algorithms interview. However, [the mentor] gave excellent advice and tips on how to prepare for the software engineering interviews, which resulted in my landing an offer!”

  • Software Engineer, US

Asking for help and gaining confidence

“I learned that it’s okay to reach out and ask questions when you’re confused, even though you might be worried about looking like an amateur.”

  • Product Designer, Canada

“I needed some reassurance about my career direction, and Allison provided a safe environment to express my struggles dealing with imposter syndrome. I left the call with renewed energy to charge through my career with more confidence.”

  • Experience Designer, Canada

With its mentorship platform, Merit removes the barrier of talking to senior leaders in tech. Rather than having to sift through LinkedIn, send cold reach-outs, and be left wondering how to get advice, Merit members can quickly find someone with expertise, schedule a call, and unblock their career.

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