Eliza Doolittle had Professor Henry Higgins, Gilligan had the Skipper, and Lil Kim had Biggie Smalls. To find that perfect career you’ve been searching for, go out and nab yourself a mentor who will offer advice, help pull you up by the bootstraps and kick your ass when it needs to be kicked.
A mentor should be all about helping you through the difficulties that comes with finding a job or helping you through a career change. They may also be able to help you with contacts, job leads and other career advice. Finding a mentor isn’t as easy as hanging out at Starbucks and talking to the old guys who play chess, but you will find someone if you look hard enough. But don’t act desperate- be particular regarding whom you choose to be your mentor.
If you can, chase a well-established person. If your mentor is a big-shot in their career, then the more valuable their advice. You might find someone through friends or through your old job. You may also find a career mentor through military or minority affiliations. Once you have found a mentor, meet with them weekly for a set period of time. Don’t bother them anymore than that. (You would hate to be fired from your mentor). Respect their time. Take notes during your meeting with your mentor, and have questions ready for them by your next meeting. If your mentor gives you assignments, complete them on time. Above all, be able to handle constructive criticism from your mentor. Acquire a thick skin &mdash you’ll need it to find a new job. If you get a cool or negative reception, re-examine your choice and move on. The fact you don’t have a job doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat.
Once you’ve found a mentor, make sure you show your appreciation for the advice and whatever else your mentor provides. You don’t want them to get the feeling they’re being taken advantage of. You can show your appreciation by a sincere “thank you” as well as cards, flowers, or lunch. Remember that because career mentor relationships are like friendships, you have to keep in contact with your mentor. Don’t just call on them when you need something. Consider them and treat them as you would a good friend, because you never know when they might need to move on.
Tips on finding and keeping a mentor:
Be clear on why you want a mentor. Are you looking for someone to hand you a gig or help you find a dream career? Do you want advice from your industry’s movers and shakers? Or do you just need a sounding board?
Figure out your personality and communication style. What kind of mentor would be best for you? You might choose someone who’s your opposite or exactly the same. It’s your call.
When asking someone to be your mentor, explain why you’re asking and what you’d expect out of the relationship. Explain your reasons for approaching this person. Don’t be afraid to be flattering, but don’t be a suck up.
A mentor is a powerful role model. Look for someone who has the kind of life and work you’d like to have. Also, choose a mentor you truly respect. Don’t just go for the biggest name you can find.
Show gratitude. Never let your mentor feel taken for granted. Also, supply feedback. If your mentor suggested something that really worked out for you, report back. People love hearing about their part in a success story. And if you get famous, don’t forget to thank them when you win that big award.