Whether you are beginning your job search, about to start a job, entering further education or still researching career options, a mentor may be able to help.

What Is A Mentor?

A mentor is a wise guide, someone who has been where you’re going and is willing to help you find your way. A mentor is the kind of person who listens to your ideas or problems and, rather than telling you what to do, asks questions to help you think through a range of possibilities before you decide for yourself what the best course of action will be.

A mentor might be an older person with experience that they are willing to share or someone prepared to act as a sounding board for your thoughts. Most importantly, a mentor is someone you trust with whom you can talk freely.

How Is Mentoring Used?

Many government departments and large corporations set up mentoring programs where less experienced staff are introduced to more experienced people. There are programs where retired business managers advise small business operators. Universities, professional institutes and schools link students to practitioners to advance learning. As well as these formal mentoring programs, individuals can have informal mentoring relationships. When you’re lucky enough to meet someone who takes an interest, a spontaneous relationship might not be labelled mentoring by either party even though that’s what it is.

How Could Having A Mentor Help?

It always helps to know you’re not alone and someone is one your side, so having a mentor when entering unknown territory will reduce any sense of isolation or overwhelm you may be feeling. A mentor can offer practical assistance such as:

    • finding job leads or introductions to potential employers
    • fine tuning your resume for a specific job application
    • discussing or rehearsing interview techniques
    • learning about a particular job or field of employment that interests you
    • developing specific skills
    • survival tips they learned through experience

A mentor may offer hints, suggestions, encouragement, support and a different point of view. You don’t have to take all, or any, of their advice as a good mentor understands that you need to make your own decisions.

A Case Study

Chris was interested in becoming a graphic artist. After talking to the careers adviser at school and collecting literature on courses at the careers market, Chris was still not sure whether this field was the right career choice. Chris discovered that a next-door-neighbour’s brother, Greg was a self-employed graphic artist. The neighbour telephoned her brother and organised for Chris to meet him. Chris was able to ask heaps of questions and decided that graphic art was the way to go. Chris stayed in touch with Greg over the next few years. Chris was able to discuss study assignments, get advice and try out new ideas. Chris also gained an idea of the style and type of work in which Greg was involved. Before Chris had finished studying, Greg had suggested a number of agencies employing graphic artists and provided some contact names. Greg also helped Chris choose samples of work to display in a presentation portfolio. Chris didn’t get a job right away but did work experience with an agency. Several small free-lance assignments followed and Greg called on Chris for help when he was overloaded with work. Meanwhile, Chris kept knocking on the doors of all kinds of companies to enquire about work. Eventually persistence paid off, Chris obtained a position in a graphic art firm consulting to major advertising agencies.

Where Do You Find A Mentor?

A Mentor is someone who can listen to you and your needs, has some experience that will be of value to you and is willing to spend a little time with you. Such a person may be someone you already know or someone you can be introduced to by someone you know. You need be specific about the type of experience or knowledge you’re seeking then ask: Would you, or someone you know, have any experience with…. Start with family, friends, the parents or older brothers or sisters of your friends, people in your school or local community. You may be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of experience that some people have and their willingness to help.


About the Author:

Ann Rolfe is the founder of Mentoring Works. She has over twenty-five years experience in learning and development and sixteen years specializing in mentoring.
Free ebook Mentoring Demystified and newsletter plus access Ann Rolfe’s books, online learning centre and mentoring network http://www.mentoring-works.com.
Ann Rolfe, the author of:

    • The Mentoring Conversation
    • The Mentoring Guide
    • The Mentoring Journal
    • Take a Minute To Mentor
    • How To Design and Run Your Own Mentoring Program
    • Mentoring Demystified
    • Mentoring Tips

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