And five places you can find them.
When you think of mentors, you probably think of someone who advises you through school or your career. But have you thought of someone who can offer you sage advice and nurture you through your job search? This, I argue, is one crucial time in your life when you should have a mentor.
You might wonder who could mentor you through your search, and where you can find a mentor. These are fair considerations. But first consider how important a mentor could be in your job search.
Like a mentor you might have had at a job, your job-search mentor would make you far more successful in finding your next job. Would your mentor cut your job search in half? Perhaps not.
You should look at your mentor as someone whose goal is to guide you toward a rewarding job, whether it takes three weeks or three months. Your mentor wants you to stay at your next job for years to come. This is how important a mentor can be.
Three types of mentors
Who makes a great mentor? There are three characteristics of a great mentor. A person who possesses one of these characteristics is a find. A person with all three is gold.
The wise person
In the job search, this person can be invaluable. You might have questions about various aspects of your job search. You wonder how to best represent yourself in your written and verbal communications. This person will guide you, based on our occupation and industry, with the proper verbiage.
You’re an engineer. Your former director of engineering will help you structure your résumé and LinkedIn profile. They’ll help you with your networking and interview techniques. They speak the language and know what people who have the authority to hire. They’ve hired many people of your status.
Where are the jobs? That’s what every job seeker wants to know. Here’s a fact: most jobs aren’t advertised. They’re hidden and to find them requires a facilitator to lead you to them. A facilitator is someone who’ll connect you to almost anyone you want. They are well known in your industry and know the key players.
You want to connect with someone in Fortune 100 companies. No problem. Start-ups are your target companies. Again, no problem. If they don’t know someone at a company, they’ll find out who you need to know and make the introductions for you. “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
Better known as a closer, this person won’t let you quit. They are enthusiastic and stand in your corner. You feel like giving up on a possible position, they won’t let you. I’ve spoken to many job seekers who say they’ve just had a bad day or week. I get this; the job search is a grind.
I can offer a pep talk, but a dedicated cheerleader will do more. They’ll call you in the morning; and if you don’t answer the phone, they’ll drive to your house. If you’re a member of a buddy group, the cheerleader will be the one who’ll stay later to provide encouragement. Have an interview, they’ll encourage you to the point when the interview begins.
Where you can find a mentor
Have I convinced you to find a mentor? I hope I have. Now you’re wondering where to find the person or people I’ve just described.
One person to turn to is a former colleague. Perhaps you had a director of marketing who always offered you sage advice related to work. That person even gave you career advice while you were working for them; when you were laid off they told you to contact them at any time.
Little did you know that your former director knew many people in your industry. They could make phone calls or introduce you on LinkedIn. Think about people like this and reach out to them. Ask if you can call them occasionally. You might find that they’ll reach out to you on a regular basis.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing many job seekers who made it their mission to help their networking buddies. One person who comes to mind was a true facilitator. He started a networking group. At meetings he was always throwing out names during Needs and Leads.
You’ll know when you’ve found the networking buddy who will fit the role you need, be it the wise person, facilitator, or cheerleader. Don’t look at this relationship as one-sided. Your networking buddy is looking for work as well, do your best to help them.
Career advisors and coaches
As a career coach working for a One-Stop career center, I’ll tell you I see thousands of people a year. There are so many job seekers coming through our doors that it’s hard to keep them straight. One type of job seeker who stands out is the one who is totally dedicated to their job search.
Should you find a mentor, show them that you’re motivated to succeed in your job search. Make the effort to send pings on a bi-weekly basis, letting your career advisor/coach know your progress. This will keep you on their radar—especially important if your career coach is extremely busy.
Although a slower method, finding people who are thought leaders in your industry is a possibility. When you send a potential mentor an invite, don’t make the ask immediately. Develop a relationship first. Get a feel for some of your connections and, if they’re local, ask to meet with them in person.
The ideal person might not live locally. No problem; use Skype, Zoom, or even Facetime to conduct sessions. I have a friend who I’ve Zoomed with on many occasions but never met him in person until just recently. He was like I had imagined. Over the years he has given me sage advice, so I consider him to be my online mentor.
It’s true that things happen when you least expect it. Your goal might be to find a mentor, and you try your best to find one. However, “that” person is nowhere to be found. Perhaps you’re trying too hard. Does it make sense to write on the Internet that you’re looking for a mentor? No
Like that great job that happens when you don’t expect it, meeting your mentor might be by happenstance. Imagine you’re at a holiday party and you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. That person comes across as very knowledgeable in your industry and others. Furthermore, they know almost everyone who you should meet.
A great mentor in your job search can be the difference between landing a rewarding career quickly or enduring a long job search. Of the three types of mentors, either one can be important.