Asking For Help

You have been looking for a job, but your career plan lacks direction.  You have the skills and experience, but you don’t know exactly how to apply them within the current labour market.  You are overqualified for some positions, under-qualified for others, but it never seems to be a perfect fit.  Where can you go to get some direction?  If this description describes your current situation, you may benefit from a mentor.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is person working in your field who regularly meets with you to discuss your career.  Usually the subject of your meetings will depend on your goals and on your mentor’s experience.  You could discuss anything from challenges and opportunities at work, to job opportunities, training and education, or networking contacts.  The mentor’s job is to guide you and to give you the opportunity to learn from their experience.  Mentoring can be done formally through an official program, or informally with an individual from your network.

How can a mentor help with my job search?

Since your mentor is working in your industry, they will be able to help you assess your skills and experience so that you can determine which types of positions would be the best match.  Also, they could help you identify gaps where you can try to get more training.  A mentor is a great addition to your network and they may be able to give you an inside scoop on potential job opportunities.  Finally, since your mentor has experience in your field, they could have already faced the challenges that you are currently encountering.  Your mentor may share some of their experiences with you and allow you to benefit from the knowledge that they have gained.

How do I find a mentor?

There are organizations that specialize in matching people with mentors.  Also, professional associations often have mentorship programs where you will be matched with someone working in your industry.  If you want to find a mentor informally, you could ask a previous supervisor, teacher, or instructor.  You could also do a search through your network to see if there are any potential mentors that you are already connected with.  Most people will be happy to help- you just need to ask.

How do I make the most out of my mentorship experience?

Establish and communicate your goals-  Be open and clear with you mentor about what you are hoping to get out of the experience.  Tell them about your career goals and let them know how they can help.  If you aren’t clear about your objectives, your mentor may have no idea of how they can assist you.

Be open to your mentor’s viewpoints- You need to be willing to graciously accept feedback from your mentor.  Some of this feedback could be negative, and your mentor may suggest that you try a different direction.  This type of feedback is valuable to you as it is information that most people will not provide.  Your mentor is experienced in the field, so allow yourself to benefit from their knowledge (even if it stings a little).

Be appreciative- Since your mentor is a busy person, you should feel honoured that they are willing to spend their time helping you.  Show respect for your mentor’s time by listening to their advice and acting on their suggestions.  Let them know that you appreciate everything that they do for you.

You can’t count on a mentor to find you a job, but with their knowledge (and possibly their networking contacts), they may be able to advise you on where to look.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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