Job searching and career development can feel like a full-time position in itself, especially when you are unsure of where to begin on your employment path.
Luckily, as a young professional, you have the opportunity to find a career mentor who was once in your shoes. There are many benefits to having an industry professional guide you, but there are some things you need to do before you find ‘the one.’
Are you ready? Let’s get cracking!
DO determine your career objectives first
Think about what field you want to enter, what type of role you want to be in, and of course what you value in a career. The answers to these questions will help you determine what you hope to initially achieve. The reality is that your objectives may change over time, but remember a career is something that is built upon, and in order for it to develop, you need to lay out some clear objectives to be your foundation.
Now that your objectives are clear, and you are confident in who you want to be, it is time to find someone who would be interested in making you their protégé. To accomplish this…
DO start your search within your own network
Ask yourself: “Who do I know in this field or role already?” Can you connect with them on LinkedIn, or send them an email? A mentor doesn’t need to be a brand new contact, they could easily be someone who you’ve worked with before, or have met at a past industry event. Now, this may not necessarily be the case for everyone, but if your own network does not fulfill your needs…
DO begin to expand
It may sound like a tedious task, and you might assume that people are “too busy” to talk to you, but the truth is they were once in your shoes and are the key-holders to the advice you need. Networking is a key component to success; not only can this skill help you acquire a desired role, it can also help you learn more about an industry, make contacts to help build your own business and, of course, build relationships. You can also expand your network through volunteering, internships and using your school’s career services.
After your initial search is complete…
DO take time to set-up an informational interview with your mentor
Start by proposing a time that fits both of your schedules, and remember to treat it like a real interview. During your first initial meeting, your mentor may not know much about you, but they will hold the information you desire. It is up to you to be clear with your objectives so the meeting is as productive as possible. Use this opportunity to exchange contact information, including email addresses, professional phone numbers, and connect on LinkedIn if you haven’t already done so to build your professional network. Keep in mind that you should structure your interview to be conversational and leave lots of room to speak about new topics and questions that might come up.
Moving forward, in order to be successful in your search, you must also be aware of some approaches to steer away from. As a first recommendation…
DON’T show up to your informational interview unprepared
Have some predetermined questions with you, bring a portfolio, print out copies of your resume, and research your mentor’s company.
Furthermore, industry research suggests to keep in mind that the objective of this meeting is to gather industry information, so…
DON’T go into your meeting expecting a job offer
Be completely open to any opportunities and suggestions that might come up during your conversation. As a reminder, your career path is something that is developed over time, and informational interviews can be a key component to your finding your next opportunity!
Speaking of your next move, you might be keen on finding a mentor who already works for your dream company. However…
DON’T focus so much on their title or where they work
It is great to receive insight from someone who currently works there, but it is also important to work with a mentor who understands your values, personality type, and has your best interests in mind. With the right knowledge and preparation, it is inevitable that you will build up the right skill set to land that dream job!
In addition, we often have the impression that career mentors are older and more experienced in the industry. In saying that…
DON’T limit yourself to only finding a mentor who is an experienced professional
Sometimes, it may even be more helpful to find a mentor who is closer in age and may only have a few more years of experience than you. It might help you connect with your mentor on a more personal level and gain some insight on how to achieve your goals as a recent grad. Business Insider even mentions that having peer mentors is a great resource and oftentimes, they end up being a mentor for life, whether you meet them at work, school or within your network.
Best of luck in your search!