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Career Planning

In the Market for a Mentor

A mentor can help you along in your career.

Elisa Kronish

March 19, 2009

In the Market for a Mentor

Graduation is just ahead and you're getting ready to put your education to work. It may be time to get in the market for a mentor.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a professional who acts as an adviser and role model to a new member of their profession. Part coach, part motivator, the mentor works as a guide from within the context of the work environment.

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Mentors are generally happy to help you because they're at a point in their career where they're ready to give back. Many have had their own mentors and want to return the favor.

What does a mentor typically do?

A mentor oversees your career development by sharing knowledge and experience. Helping you clarify and pursue your career goals, your mentor acts as a sounding board, providing a safe place to try out ideas, skills and roles.

Using expertise gained on the job, your mentor is your own personal "insider" who can give you insight into the organizational culture of the office and industry. And when you are ready to move ahead, your mentor provides contacts for further career opportunities.

What should you look for in a mentor?

The perfect mentor is someone who works well with you and who has the experience and success you seek. Look for someone who:

  • Has accomplished things that you'd like to achieve
  • Enjoys their job and is proud of the company they work for
  • You respect and believe will respect you
  • You can trust with sensitive career issues
  • Has the patience and time to work with you
  • Believes in you and will support your efforts

How do you find a mentor?

  • Make a short list of potential mentors. Consider family friends, professionals, professors and former employers.
  • Shop around for companies that interest you to see if they offer a mentoring program. Programs vary, so do some homework to make sure they offer what you need.
  • Check on the Internet for "telementors" to locate organizations that match up mentors with young professionals and new graduates.
  • Contact professional associations for your field and ask about formal mentoring programs.

Once you have located potential mentors, contact them by phone and establish your working relationship. Tell them what you want from a mentor and why you think they would make a good mentor. If they agree to help, arrange a time to meet. During your meeting, plan to discuss your career aspirations and goals. Bring along copies of your resume. When speaking with your mentor, always be positive, honest and confident.

Dos and don'ts of mentorship:

  • Welcome all your mentor's feedback, positive and negative.
  • Maintain realistic expectations of your work.
  • Be open and sincere about your needs and deficiencies.
  • Contribute your ideas about solving work-related problems.
  • Thank your mentor for their efforts.
  • Don't hold your mentor in awe—you may not have your mentor's experience, but that doesn't mean that you're inferior.
  • Don't whine to your mentor about work or personal life.
  • Don't make your mentor always come to you—you should initiate frequent communication as well.
  • Don't ask your mentor for money.

Working with a mentor will give you the extra guidance you need to make the transition from school to work and into career success!

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