Starting your career path can be difficult, especially without the guidance of a mentor you can turn to for help. However, it can be a daunting task to approach someone much older and more successful than you for career advice.
“Often [mentor relationships] start with a person they already have a relationship with,” says Jeff Holloway, Branch Manager of Robert Half Management Resources. “It doesn’t have to be a working relationship. Students and grads can look towards coaches, teachers, and family friends.”
Students can also look into guidance and mentor programs on campus that will match them up to a mentor in their industry. That’s how recent Ryerson University journalism graduate and current AOL Canada intern Arti Patel found her mentor, her former professor Vinita Srivastava.
“In first year, I was paired with Vinita for a guidance/mentor project. We developed a relationship when she was my prof and I’ve also worked with her on a project at Ryerson,” she says. “She had the experience, she was doing something I wanted to do, someone who you see yourself becoming eventually. For me that’s who a mentor is.”
There are also national mentorship programs that students can get involved with.
One such project is The Next 36, a program dedicated to launching the careers of Canada’s most promising and innovative undergraduates (you can read about TalentEgg’s coverage of The Next 36 here), which fourth year University of Toronto Rotman commerce student Daniel Rodic participated in. During his time in the The Next 36, he was placed in a team that was mentored by Francis Shen, Chairman and Co-CEO of Aastra Technologies.
But the best piece of advice Rodic has received from someone he looks up to is from his former professor Reza Satchu, who is also a co-founder of The Next 36.
“[Reza says] seek discomfort at an early age because that’s how you learn things,” says Rodic. “I thought that was really interesting because people always seek comfort, but it’s when you’re in those difficult situations that you learn the most.”
Both Patel and Rodic say that their mentors or mentorship programs have provided them valuable advice and have helped to take their careers and goals to the next level.
“[The Next 36] has given me insight into what I’m good at, what I’m not and what I should focus on,” says Rodic. “It’s made me reconsider what my goals are and made me aim a lot higher.”
“[My mentor] was able to give me not only a professional network but a personal one as well,” says Patel. “She was able to offer personal advice & experiences she can draw from her own career.”
“[Students and grads] looking for a job need to understand the power of networks. You can leverage your mentor’s connections to get names or even introductions,” says Holloway. “Utilizing your mentor’s networks can often be the biggest bang for your buck, rather than just relying on applying to jobs online.“
Once you’ve established a mentor relationship it’s important to keep in contact with the person to ensure your relationship doesn’t fizzle out.
“If you’re [keeping in touch] with someone who’s busy all the time, it’s [better for you] to be the person initiating all the emails,” says Patel. “Because at the end of the day you really want to keep [the conversation going] to keep that relationship.”
However a mentor relationship should be natural, not forced.
“If you build a good relationship while you work with the person you can be confident they’ll be there for you if you did a good job as well,” says Rodic. “When you’re working, volunteering or part of a student group be very cognizant of building those good relationships for the future.”
We were curious about what advice mentors have given TalentEgg’s followers, so we posed the question on Twitter: What’s the best advice you have ever received from a mentor? The question sparked some great conversations and nuggets of advice from our followers! Click here to read their responses.