Career Mentors: Boosting Your Job Search Potential
Let’s talk about career mentors. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
If you’re looking for a job, chances are you have asked for help during your job search process. You’ve probably sought career advice, asked for job leads, and requested information and insight about specific companies and career paths. You might have reached out to a number of people, including friends and family, colleagues and former supervisors, and LinkedIn connections. These are all normal phases of a job search and career development; reaching out for help is a sign of strength as a job seeker.
Is a career mentor on the list of people who’ve helped you during your job search?
If not, consider the value of a career mentor, especially during the job search process. Career mentors help job seekers in many ways, providing guidance, insight, and feedback. They truly serve as bridges to help you cross over into a better job role.
Keep in mind that a career mentor is not the same as a workplace mentor, though both types of mentors add significant value to your career development. A workplace mentor works for the same employer you do.
This can be handy if you need advice about a specific leader or sticky workplace situation. However, on the flip side, a workplace mentor cannot possibly offer objective feedback or insight since you work together. A workplace mentor’s opinions will be subjective, and it’s possible they will feel conflicted if you share information about your job search.
A career mentor does not work with you and thus maintains objectivity more easily. Ideally, your career mentor works in a similar career field or industry and can offer specific guidance and advice.
For these reasons, finding a career mentor—not a workplace mentor—is crucial to your job search success.
Why Should You Seek a Mentor’s Help?
Maybe you’re hesitant to consider asking someone to serve as your career mentor. You doubt the efficacy of spending your time this way, talking to someone you may not know well, and pouring into a relationship that may barely benefit you. How would this practically impact your job search?
Consider the following statistics if you’re leery of the value of mentorship.
- 25% of employees enrolled in a mentoring program earned a salary increase, compared to 5% of workers without mentors.
- Mentees are promoted 5 times more often than people without mentors.
- 87% of mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence.
- 70% of all jobs are found through networking, and your mentor is a key part of your network.
Obviously, statistics prove the benefits of having a career mentor during your job search. We all want to get promoted, earn higher salaries, feel more confident professionally, and get great job leads from people we know.Having a mentor significantly increases the odds these things will happen for you during your job search.
How a Career Mentor Can Help
If you have a mentor, how can you expect your mentor to help you as a job seeker, and which expectations are simply unrealistic?
You cannot realistically expect your mentor to do YOUR job during your job search. Your mentor can’t and won’t conduct your search for you, apply for jobs on your behalf, design your resume, log in as you on LinkedIn to create great posts, or do anything else over-the-top or unethical which might paint an inaccurate picture of you for employers. However, your mentor can certainly boost your job search by providing feedback, sharing experiences, and connecting you to others.
At multiple stages during your job search, you need feedback. A mentor serves as a sounding board and objective listening ear. When you’re revising your resume or writing a cover letter, send a copy to your mentor and ask for feedback. You may want to practice common interview questions with your mentor and ask for advice regarding how to improve your nonverbal skills and interview responses. When you feel stuck during your job search, reach out to your mentor to seek advice about the next steps.
It’s helpful to seek advice from your mentor because career mentors have nothing to gain from mentoring you. Thus, the feedback you receive will be objective, candid, and honest.
Another way a career mentor adds value to your job search as an entry-level professional is through sharing previous experiences as a job seeker and professional. Most of the time, we ask people to mentor us who are older and who have already gained insight into standard workplace dilemmas, the job search process, and career development.
Your mentor probably knows things you don’t know simply because career mentors are older, have worked for more years, and have gained valuable insights through career highs and lows. This is great news for you as a job seeker; you vicariously benefit from the lessons your mentor learned. And you don’t have to live through the hardships to learn the lessons directly.
As a job seeker, unless you hire a fabulous career coach, you’ll probably make multiple mistakes. You will likely offend an employer at least once. You may stumble over your words and miscommunicate during your interview. It might take you several years to perfect your resume or learn to write a decent cover letter.
While career mentors are not career coaches, they can still offer insight and feedback based on their experiences and blunders. This can prove invaluable in preventing you from making the same mistakes.
Once you connect with a great mentor, your mentor will connect you to others. This happens naturally most of the time without you asking for introductions. If you have a solid mentor with a desire to help others, your mentor wants to help you grow, improve, learn, and expand. Mentors do this by connecting you to great job leads, employers and recruiting professionals, and experts in your desired industry and career field.
When your mentor connects you to someone, consider it a privilege and treat it accordingly. If you make a good impression, it reflects positively on your mentor. This can lead to your mentor feeling more and more comfortable referring you. And this can improve your odds of landing a great job via networking.
How to Find a Great Career Mentor
If you don’t have a career mentor, but you’re convinced you need one, where do you start?
First, look for a mentor. Who do you already know whom you respect, admire, and feel compelled to connect with? These people are generally good mentor candidates. Ideally, you want to select a mentor within your chosen field of study or line of work. If your potential career mentor has the expertise you need but don’t currently have, you’ll learn plenty. Develop a list of two or three potential mentors.
Secondly, ask. You have to actually ask someone to mentor you; it rarely just happens.
Most people who have generous attitudes will be flattered by your request. Even if the first person you ask says no, don’t be discouraged. Mentoring is a commitment of time and energy that most people take seriously. A no doesn’t mean you’re being rejected. It simply means the person you asked doesn’t have the time or energy to mentor you. Move on to the next person on your list.
When you get a yes, schedule a meeting. If you live near your mentor, meet face-to-face. Nothing replaces the laughter, nonverbal connections, and close conversation you can benefit from when meeting face-to-face. If you can’t meet in person, Zoom is an excellent online alternative.
The first time you meet, ask your mentor to share experiences and career journey insights. You can learn about your mentor’s personality, tendencies, and strengths by simply listening to career journey stories.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to change mentors as you grow and mature as a professional. Sometimes people step into our paths at the right time, but they’re only meant to serve as guides for a season. There’s nothing wrong with moving on if you need to change directions. With the right mentor as a guide, you’ll find your own path to career fulfillment.