If you don’t already have one or two, then finding a career mentor should be a top priority as you seek to navigate life after college. A career mentor, someone who is dedicated to helping you succeed in your profession, is an invaluable person to have in your life. She or he can help with the following:
- Avoid pitfalls in your job search
- Find vacant positions in your field
- Provide little-known information about your field
- Make a decision regarding choosing between jobs
- Advise you during salary negotiations
- Connect with people to further your career
- Provide a realistic view of what working in your field is like
- Inform you on appropriate business etiquette
- Advise you on how to handle problems in your workplace
Like friendships, career mentor relationships are formed over time. In most cases, mentors are acquired through befriending people you meet who are in a position to help you.
If you haven’t met anyone you consider “mentor material” then it’s time to start searching. You can seek to be mentored by a successful person in your field at organizational meetings, conferences, career fairs, and other venues. You can even find potential mentors in magazines and newsletters. I found my first New York-based career mentor in the pages of a book review magazine. She was being profiled after having left a wonderful position as a senior editor at a major publishing house to start her own literary agency. I contacted her immediately through email, and although it took about a month or so of polite nudging in the form of more emails and a phone call or two, she eventually agreed to meet with me, and in fact, invited me out to lunch (I paid, as you should insist on doing, too). We clicked right away and I was glad I was so persistent. That one email eventually led to an internship with her company and my being able to learn from someone with years of experience in a field I was just entering.
When you chance upon a potential mentor, introduce yourself as a young professional seeking information from knowledgeable and influential sources like them. Potential mentors can be male or female and any ethnicity. The only thing they must have is a desire to assist you.
Once you’ve found a mentor, make sure to nurture the relationship by showing your appreciation for the advice your mentor provides. You don’t want them to get the feeling they’re being taken advantage of. You can show your gratitude by sincere “thank-yous” as well as cards, flowers, or lunch. Remember that because career mentor relationships are like friendships, you have to keep in contact with your mentors. Don’t just call when you need something. I can tell you from experience that the mentees I have who call, text, or message me on Facebook to check up and apprise me of their successes—and not just when they want advice or need a recommendation—are the ones I find myself promoting to other people. And the rare mentees who call me to ask if I need help with anything are the ones I think of first when an opportunity arises that could further their goals.
So, consider and treat mentors as you would a good friend. Do this, and you will have someone in your corner for life.
Sample Email to Potential Career Mentor
Subject Line: Mentor Me?
Dear Ms. Jessica Taylor
I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Divona Jacobs and I met you last Saturday during the Women on a Mission Conference in Lansing, Michigan. I was almost moved to tears as you spoke about how your desire to improve the health of children within your surrounding community led you to resign from your position as an emergency room physician and open a low-cost senior’s health clinic.
I admire your tenacity and caring spirit and am seeking to be mentored by someone like you. I obtained my nursing degree last fall and have been working at Fairview Hospital in Lansing for three months. While I certainly enjoy helping patients, I have found that the environment of your typical large hospital is just not for me—for the same reasons you talked about in your speech. I am considering putting my nursing degree to use at a nonprofit, or possibly within an elementary school, and would love your advice on the matter—as well as career advice in general.
Please let me know if you have time to speak with me via phone this week or month. Of course, if possible, I would love to meet with you over coffee or lunch (my treat!). I can be reached via phone at 507-372-7128 or by email at [email protected]