The benefits of having a job-search mentor
Job searching can at times get lonely. Spending hours browsing jobs, interrupted by the occasional interview, can make a job seeker feel a bit isolated. It would be nice to have someone to go to for advice or inspiration or to bounce ideas off of. While friends and family are always there to help, they aren't always objective, and if they aren't experiencing what you're experiencing, it may be hard for them to relate.
If you're in this position, consider finding a job-search mentor -- someone whom you know professionally, you look up to and you can count on for valuable advice. Beyond being a sounding board, mentors can provide guidance in what can often be a confusing and frustrating process. "Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career-exploration opportunities," says Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in Boston.
Breaking down the benefits
David Sanford, executive vice president of client relations at staffing firm WinterWyman, shares the following advantages to having a job-search mentor:
- You get a second set of eyes on your job-search strategy. While keeping your view and perspective in mind is most important, having someone in the boat with you that you can rely on and trust to steer you in the right direction will double your odds for success.
- You'll increase your networking opportunities. Not only do you have your own network readily available to you, but your mentor can open up his network, expanding your connection base and increasing your visibility and career possibilities.
- You'll receive objective advice. Your mentor should be someone who isn't afraid to hurt your feelings by telling you when you're heading in the wrong direction or playing the wrong hand. A good mentor will give you support when you need it but isn't shy about giving you a wake-up call when you're in danger of going down the wrong path.
Seeking out a mentor
If you aren't sure whom to ask for help, Sarikas suggests tapping someone with more experience and in a field in which you aspire to work. By connecting with someone who has been in the working world for a longer of time, you can learn from that person's experiences -- both successes and missteps.
Consider contacting an old boss with whom you had a strong relationship or a colleague at a past company whom you admired. And it doesn't have to be someone you know well; if you hit it off with someone at a networking event, don't be afraid to reach out for his help. You might get the most impartial opinions from him.
Maximizing the relationship
There's no point in having a job-search mentor if you don't maximize the relationship to its full potential. Sarikas, who serves as a career coach to students, shares the following guidelines for getting the most out of your mentor:
- Be considerate of your mentor's time. Return phone calls promptly, and arrive on time for meetings.
- Assume the relationship will be strictly professional. Let the mentor take the lead in making it more personal if desired.
- Seriously consider all advice that you receive. Be open to constructive feedback, and seek it whenever possible. Do not get defensive.
- Show evidence that you have used the assistance offered, and show appreciation for any and all assistance provided.
- Look for opportunities to give back -- share a relevant article, offer to assist with a new technology or refer a qualified candidate.
Everyone is a job seeker at some point in his life, so most people will be willing, happy and flattered to help others out in their job search. Who knows -- you may be tapped to be a job-search mentor one day.
Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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