Have you tried mentoring before? Mentoring and networking can be great ways to explore different career options and find out more about an industry or job that interests you. Find out why Career Ambassador Emily thinks it's well worth taking the plunge.
Why you need a mentor
Do you have a career mentor? I didn’t think so. Should you find one? Absolutely. As a student, you might not have considered connecting with a career mentor. Parents, family and friends are usually all too happy to share their two cents on the best ways of securing a graduate job or internship. The thought of someone else weighing in with their opinion could be too much to bear.
But look at it this way –
If you’ve ever competed in sport, played an instrument or taken a dance class, you probably had a coach or teacher who provided you with support and advice. Career mentors are similar, except instead of encouraging you to enter a swimming competition they can help you explore different career options, offer guidance on job applications and push you to achieve your goals. They can also offer objective advice, something which – as much as they may try – we can’t always get from our close family and friends.
If you are a finalist considering what to do after graduation, or a second year looking for that all important placement, you might find it really useful to connect with a career mentor.
Where to find a mentor
Sometimes you want more specific and relevant guidance than what your existing contacts can provide. If your whole family are in the medical profession but you want to be a management consultant, there’s only so much help they can give you. To put it simply, we don’t always have someone to relevant to talk to.
That’s where sites like Bath Connection and Graduate Mentor come into their own. Sites like these offer one-to-one mentoring and can really help to steer you in the right direction in a particular field. I took the opportunity to use Graduate Mentor and following a 30-minute call with a mentor. I would recommend that everyone take advantage of this service – it’s free and full of knowledgeable experts who really want to help graduates. That’s the main thing – these professionals actually want to share their knowledge and advice, and Graduate Mentor makes it really simple for you to connect with them. Bath Connection is a great resource too, particularly as everyone on there is a Bath Alumni – an ice breaker to get any mentoring conversation flowing!
Tips for engaging with mentors
For some people, the prospect of reaching out to a complete stranger and then engaging them in a 30-minute (or longer!) conversation is extremely daunting. The beauty of mentoring platforms is that each of the people on the platform really want to help you. What’s even better about a site like Graduate Mentor is that everyone listed is an expert in their field, from consultancy to manufacturing.
Once you’ve taken the leap and decided to reach out to someone, how can you get the most out of your conversations with them? Here are 4 top tips:
- What do you want from the call? Advice on whether an industry is right for you? To find out what day-to-day life is like in a particular role? A better understanding of what skills are the most important to demonstrate in an interview? By entering the conversation knowing what you want to get out of it, you’ll feel much more confident
- It might just seem like a casual conversation but preparing a list of 8-10 targeted questions will allow you to get the support and advice you actually want. If a call drifts towards a topic you’re not particularly interested in, you can use the questions to help guide it back to something you’re curious about.
- Whilst it’s important to lead the conversation, it’s not an interview! Let the conversation flow naturally and don’t feel constrained by your list of questions - you might end up learning something unexpected. Part of active listening is responding with questions related to what is being said, and inevitably you won’t have thought of everything beforehand.
- Dress smart. If it’s a video call, make sure you’re presentable and don’t show up in your pyjamas (as tempting as that may be during lockdown). Whilst you shouldn’t go into the call seeking a job, remember that your mentor may have the ability to offer you one, so you should dress and act professionally at all times.
If you want to find out more about networking, check out resources on MyFuture.