The Benefits of a Professional Mentor

By Dara Braithwaite

Professional mentors.  Everyone seems to have one, and it sounds like a good idea, but what does having a mentor actually achieve? And where can you find one?

Benefits

Insight

A professional mentor is able to give further insight into the profession that you’re aspiring to be in, and any emerging trends that are developing.  It’s one thing to be hearing about trends in lectures or reading about them in journal articles, but who better to give you this information, and tell you how it is being used and affecting the industry, than someone who is living through it on a daily basis?

The invaluable first-hand knowledge of emerging trends could also be a key factor in helping you secure a position in the industry, as hiring managers are always keen to speak with people who have taken the time to research the industry and see trends (and all you’ve done is have a conversation)!


Read more: What Are Soft Skills and Why Do You Need Them?


Words of wisdom

We all learn from our own mistakes, but how good would it be to learn from someone else’s mistake, before you make the same?  A professional mentor is able to detail past mistakes that they have made, how they overcame them, and more importantly, how you can avoid them!  They can also share success stories with you, so that you may be able to replicate them in your own work.

Contacts

Building a professional network can take years to form, but with a professional mentor, their well-established network is within your grasp!  They may be able to introduce you to people who could be valuable within your own career, or may know of people hiring for a role in your industry before it is even advertised, that they can recommend you for!

Find strengths

While most of us know what our greatest strengths are, a professional mentor is able to see additional strengths in you that you may not have realised, and can teach you how to leverage those skills in your industry.  We also often think that the hard skills learnt in University are the most important things for our first professional job, and while they are important, the range of soft skills you possess are equally, if not more important!  For example, you may have excellent written skills but not realise that written communication is vital in your industry, as you are constantly sending emails out to clients.  A mentor within the industry does know this, and can ensure that you leverage that skill (and others) during your elevator pitch, whether on your resume or at an interview.


Read more: Top Ten Tips for Mastering Your Elevator Pitch


So getting a professional mentor seems like a great idea…. But where do I find one?

LinkedIn

Using LinkedIn is a great stalking searching tool to find people within your desired industry.  You may wish to look up specific organisations that you aspire to work in, and look through the people that work there.  You can then reach out to a person within the organisation, particularly if they are in your dream position, and approach them to be your mentor.

You may also just want to search job titles of a particular position you aspire to be in, and seek a mentor from someone with that title, regardless of the industry they are in.

Networking events

Networking events and career-related events are great places to source professional mentors.  Check out CareerHub to see if there are any employer events that relate to your degree/industry/interest, and attend!

Employers that come on-campus, or invite students to an event off-campus, love to speak to highly engaged students.  Chat with the organisational representative, obtain their business card and ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.

Okay, I know who I want as a professional mentor, but how do I ask them?

You’ve done the ground work (whether through LinkedIn searching or meeting someone at an event), but how do you ask them to be your mentor?


Read more: But What Do [insert job title] Actually Do?!


First and foremost, do not ask them for a job!  Instead, mention why you think they would be influential for you professionally (based on your research).   Remember that they are busy people, and therefore set time-frames around the mentoring, and be flexible around when you can meet them!  For example, you may suggest an hour a fortnight for a period of 12 weeks, and let them know that you are available anytime on a Monday and after 12 on a Friday.

You can do this by either sending them a message through LinkedIn, or via a phone call if you met them at an event and have their business card.  If they do happen to say no, don’t be disheartened, remember that they are incredibly busy people, and may not have the time.  Instead, start your search again, and connect with someone else.

They said they would mentor me, so what do I ask?

This is entirely dependent about what you want out of the relationship.  Hopefully you’ve mentioned in your initial discussion why you think they’d be influential in your professional career, and what you hope to gain from the relationship (and what you may be able to offer them).  The key to the initial meeting is preparation.  Have a list of questions that you would like to ask prepared prior to the meeting.  Below are some general questions that may be a good starting point.

  • What soft skills do you recommend that I showcase when applying for xyz positions?
  • What key trends are you seeing within the industry?
  • What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
  • How has xyz (innovative technology system, automation of jobs) affected worked performed within xyz positions?
  • What piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into the xyz industry?

Once you get to know them a little better (i.e. not the first meeting!), you may want to ask:

  • Do you know of anyone in your network that is currently looking for somebody with my particular skillset?

 


Dara is passionate about helping UTS students achieve their career goals, and has a strong background in customer service, human resources and the higher education sector.  Currently working as a Recruitment Administrator at UTS:Careers, Dara connects UTS students with industry through sourcing and advertising quality internships and opportunities.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

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