The road to a fulfilling new job can be long and full of challenges. If satisfying careers grew on trees, there’d be no need for placement services, career counseling or websites like LiveCareer. But as you set off on this difficult path, remember that you aren’t alone, and that countless job seekers and hardworking citizens all around you have traveled this way before. And if you keep your ears open and learn from the experience of others, you may be able to save yourself from considerable struggle and anxiety.
LiveCareer and other general informational resources can help, but for specific guidance, reach out to a person you know — or a few people — who you can adopt as job search mentors. You don’t have to follow precisely in this person’s footsteps. You just have to have confidence in his or her direction and be receptive to the advice she might be able to share with you.
Once you have a mentor in mind, approach the person boldly and be clear about what you hope to gain from the relationship. Don’t be afraid of rejection; most people like being asked for advice. And those who have faced and overcome challenges usually appreciate a chance to reflect on and articulate what they’ve learned. Besides, becoming a mentor gives a person an opportunity to help someone else the way he or she may have been helped in the past – and we all enjoy paying off our karmic debts.
Where to Look For Great Mentors
If your choice of mentor isn’t obvious, start by looking in these three specific areas of your network:
- Former or current professors
- Former bosses and coworkers
- People who you interact with in a professional setting, like your dental hygienist or doctor
- People in your social network who are a few steps ahead of you on your chosen career path, like the parent of a friend
Send your chosen mentor a written message asking if you can arrange an in-person meeting or phone call at a specific time. If you don’t hear back, feel free to follow up with another message in a few days. If your mentor agrees to meet, show respect by preparing for the appointment ahead of time. Have a list of questions in mind about the issues that concern you most. A few examples include the following:
- I’m in the process of applying for graduate programs in this field. Are there any schools or courses you specifically recommend?
- I just graduated and I’m looking for a way to get my foot in the door. What steps did you take when you were in this position?
- I’m about to step into my first job in this field and I want to get off to a strong start. Do you have any tips for me?
- I have a specific thorny problem related to my growth in this career, and I don’t want this obstacle to stand in my way. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Have you ever faced a problem like this?
Make sure your questions are clear, listen carefully to your mentor and keep a pad or tablet close so you can write down relevant information. When the meeting ends, thank your mentor and let her know what you’d like to do next. If you want to continue these sessions on a biweekly or monthly basis, let her know, and be ready to follow through. Take responsibility for arranging the meetings around her schedule.
Move Your Job Search ForwardIf all goes well, you may develop a long-term relationship that can continue to grow as your career unfolds. You may even find yourself in a position to mentor someone else a few years down the road. In the meantime, take advantage of the general advice and resume building tools available on LiveCareer.