When you’re new to an industry and navigating your career, a mentor can be your guiding light. They’re knowledgeable, experienced in the industry, and they know who to talk to. Here’s a few ways a mentor can help guide you while you figure out your career path.
A mentor can give you the lowdown on the dos and don’ts in the industry
Someone who’s experienced in the industry has been there and done that. They might still be growing in their own career or business, but they’ve learned what not to do along the way! Building a relationship with a mentor can help guide you in your own journey so you know what to be cautious of and what to focus on.
I found a photography mentor – unintentionally – a few years ago. At a local event, I walked over to a company booth that specialized in wood printing. The product intrigued me and the owner had a sheet on the table to learn more about her photography services and classes. I signed up for a photography class and that was the beginning of our professional relationship.
The more that I talked to this photographer, the more I realized we had a similar way of thinking about the industry. While photography was a hobby for me, she had been working as a photographer for more than 10 years! She knew the ins and outs of pursuing photography as both a hobby and a business. She later became my go-to person for photography techniques and business questions. It happened very naturally and while the term “mentor” never came up, I would definitely consider her one!
So, what does this mean for you? You can intentionally seek out a mentor or you can stumble upon someone who’s the right fit when you least expect it. The important thing is that you listen, ask thoughtful questions, and support this potential mentor as you begin building a relationship. If they’re the right fit, they’ll most likely reciprocate and develop a meaningful rapport.
They can connect you with jobs and other people in the field
Another perk of finding a mentor is that they can recommend jobs to you and connect you with other individuals in your industry. Attending events that this person hosts or suggests – even virtually – can open up a whole new realm of possibilities for both you and your (potential) mentor.
You never know who could to be on that webinar. You could make a connection who will be vital to your career; whether it’s landing a job with someone from the event or getting advice from them later down the line.
Going back to my photography mentor example, I asked a lot of questions in class, followed up with emails, and maintained the relationship by keeping in touch and attending her events. She later needed help with some content work, so I went on to work as an admin for her company.
Again, I wasn’t looking for a mentor or a job from this person, but it happened naturally thanks to the nature of our communication, supporting one another, and business needs. You’ll find opportunities as your network progresses.
Your mentor can act as a reference
Once you’ve built a relationship with a mentor, you can work your way into requesting a recommendation from them. Some people might find it most helpful if you offer to create a recommendation draft to save them time. Other people will just need a few bullet points on what you want them to highlight in the recommendation.
Getting a recommendation from someone who’s experienced in the industry can help boost your credibility on and offline. Your mentor can become someone in your corner, cheering you on.
How does one find a mentor?
Use websites like Meetup, Slack communities related to your industry, and LinkedIn to find groups of like-minded people. You can start with a hobby group, a professional group, or both! Joining online communities can help you meet people that maybe you went to school with many years ago or have similar career aspirations as you. This can later blossom into a mentorship with discussions focusing on careers outside the hobby group.
Search LinkedIn for Groups, Interests, and People using keywords pertaining to your career. Find industry experts you want to get to know professionally and connect with them. At the end of the day, we’re all people connecting with other people. How you connect with them and what you say is what matters.
Take your mutual connections into consideration when requesting people through LinkedIn or contact them in an email. Do your research and send a note with your invitation. You can compliment this person’s recent presentation or mention that your mutual connection recommended you to connect.
If you don’t have mutual connections at the moment, start with an attention-grabbing first line in an email or LinkedIn invitation note. Again, do your research so you can kick off the conversation in a natural way.
Don’t ask someone to be your mentor.
You might never call your mentor…your mentor. It’s more of an unspoken title that’s understood, thanks to your working relationship. We want you to succeed in finding a quality mentor rather than scaring someone off. 😊
Build a relationship.
Listen to this person’s experiences and stories. Wait to ask for advice – it might just come up naturally! Thank this person for their time, verbally, electronically, and yes, send them a thank-you card from time to time to add a personal touch. Going the extra mile with every interaction will demonstrate your interest in maintaining your connections and paying it forward.
Get out there and find your mentor!
Now you’ve got all the tools you need to understand how a mentor can help and how to find one. Do you have more questions about finding a mentor? Other career questions? Contact us today and our recruiters can help you.