By Kevin Kurtz
You’ve graduated from college with a degree that should give you a good starting point to a gratifying career. But you don’t actually have that job yet. Do you know which career positions to pursue? Large employer or small? Relocate or stay local?
From point of graduation forward, it can be beneficial to have the insight and advice of someone older who’s been where you hope to go. Someone who has navigated the obstacles and blind alleys you’re about to confront and has found a level of success you respect.
Perhaps you need a mentor.
Finding a mentor
By its most basic definition, a mentor is simply an experienced and trusted advisor. Graduating students are often uncertain and even intimidated by the prospects of determining what type of position they want, let alone knowing how to secure that first job. A mentor can offer guidance, insight, encouragement and a direction forward.
Mentorship is about trust. You must feel confident that your mentor has the accumulated wisdom you need and a willingness to share it. Your mentor, on the other hand, must feel able to offer valuable advice in the knowledge that you’ll listen and take it to heart.
While the mentor/mentee relationship could pave the way for a potential career opportunity, that should not be the primary expectation. Over time, as the relationship matures, perhaps it will lead to a job offer by the mentor--but that’s just a bonus if it happens.
The chemistry of a mentoring relationship
How do you identify a mentor? There’s no magical formula. You could develop a mentoring relationship with a college professor, a manager from an internship or summer job, a trusted family member or friend, or maybe a professional that you met at a networking event.
What you should be looking for is a relaxed relationship where you feel comfortable discussing your goals and dreams and you deeply respect the views and background of the other person. You should feel comfortable around that person and experience a strong professional chemistry. You must both feel confident of being able to develop a strong foundation of trust.
It’s not unlike a work deliverable in that there should be stated objectives with a desired outcome. Know your expectations and what you wish to achieve. This will set the stage and form the framework for the relationship and provides the mentor with greater visibility in how he or she can be of assistance.
Your mentor won’t give you all the answers or blindly sign off on everything you say. There will be a give and take from which both parties should feel a sense of accomplishment. Your mentor might share with you stories of challenges encountered along his or her career path and advice on how they overcame adversity in situations much like you’re encountering -- or failed to do so.
Remember, it’s a two-way street. If you’re candid and open to advice, your mentorship could truly be a win-win opportunity for both of you.
Kevin Kurtz, MBA is director of talent acquisition at Wiss & Company LLP. He can be reached at (973) 994-9400 or KKurtz@wiss.com.