During the course of your job hunt, you probably have heard numerous advice about the importance of networking, but you probably might not have heard many people stressing the importance of having a mentor. The job hunt process can be overwhelming, so in order to persist, you are going to need guidance along the way.
Ideally, mentors are people who are experienced in the industry you are interested in and can provide advice about all aspect of career development on a consistent basis. Mentors are the equivalent of teachers and professors in the real world. However, unlike teachers and professors, mentors are not always provided or assigned to you. It could be a lengthy quest to find the right mentor whom understands your skills and interests and whom you feel comfortable with. Here’s how to get started.
1) Start small
The first step can be intimidating, especially if you have never done it before, so look around your existing network first. Is there anyone whose job you think you would like to have some day? It could be a family friend or an alumni of your school. Even if you don’t know anyone off the top of your head, if you ask people you already know, someone will be likely to connect you with someone that they know.
2) Reach out
If you found someone from your current circle, congrats! If you haven’t, the rest of the world awaits. But even if you have already found someone, it does not hurt to reach out to more people. Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with people you normally don’t have access to. When I come across an insightful article from someone in my industry, I often reach out to that person on Twitter or LinkedIn. Most people have been very responsive. Here’s an example of what I often send on LinkedIn:
I am a (student/intern) at (school/company). I read your article on ___________ and I am very interested in learning more about ___________. If you have time, I would like to meet up and ask a few questions. Thank you!
3) Go into the first meeting with an open mind
When you first meet someone, even through existing connections, it’s hard to know whether this person will be a good mentor for you. Like any relationship, mentorship is a two way street in which both parties have to be willing to engage. If you are meeting with a senior executive, the person may not be likely to agree to be your mentor on a weekly or monthly basis. Thus it is best to learn as much as you can about the person in the first meeting without bringing up mentorship right away. If you would like the person to be your mentor, you can ask for more meetings and discuss mentorship when you feel appropriate. And always remember to communicate how much you appreciate the mentor’s time!
4) It’s okay to have multiple mentors
Factors such as your career interest and the mentor’s availability could change the mentor relationship over time. It’s perfectly normal to have different mentors at different points in your career. Having different mentors even within the same discipline can also provide you with different perspectives.
Do you have experience connecting with a mentor? Is there any tips you would like to add? Share with us below!