Getting yourself a mentor or ‘personal career champion’ can really help you get your career off the ground. In this post (Part I of II) I want to tell you what having a mentor – the right mentor – can mean for your job prospects. In my next post, I’ll give you some tips on finding a suitable mentor and getting them to champion your career take-off.
So what is mentoring? One definition is “A one-to-one, non-judgmental relationship in which an individual mentor voluntarily gives his or her time to support and encourage another” (from the Active Community Unit in the Home Office, 2001). The best mentors tend to be experienced, enthusiastic individuals who are willing to encourage, challenge and listen to their mentees and help them to move forward in some aspect of their lives, in our case, with their career.
I should mention that the Careers Service actually has a really successful mentoring programme, Manchester Gold, which matches students with experienced professionals in relevant sectors. These mentors offer students individual advice and support to help them kick-start their careers. The only problem is, Manchester Gold is really competitive with several applications for each place on the programme. But if you missed on Manchester Gold, finding your own mentor could be a real option. What have you got to lose?
5 quick reasons for having a ‘careers mentor’:
- Feedback on You. Your mentor can give you a real employer’s perspective on your CV and applications and an honest assessment of your suitability for (and chances of getting into) your chosen career.
- Industry knowledge. Your mentor can share their invaluable ‘insider knowledge’ into the sector or area of work you hope to get into. For example, how is the industry changing? What skills are employers looking for at the moment? Where’s the best place to look for opportunities in the current economic climate?
- Guidance and direction. Your mentor can advise you on your careers action plan, what your main priorities should be and how to ‘market yourself’.
- Support and reassurance. Your mentor can give you some perspective and a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel when you open your nth rejection letter. Let’s face it – they’ve probably been there themselves. They’ll be able to tell you it’s just a normal (if potentially demoralising) part of the process and you’ll get there in the end.
- Work experience and contacts. This can be the real icing on the cake. If you develop a good relationship with your mentor over time, they’ll have a chance to build up a good picture of your skills and qualities and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about their business and consider what you might have to offer. Think of it as a kind of extended two-way interview, which may lead to the possibility of work experience or your mentor sharing some of their contacts with you or recommending you for opportunities they hear about on the grapevine.
So hopefully you’re sold on the idea of mentoring. Soon I’ll write another post giving you some tips on how to actually find your own ‘personal career champion’!