Searching for a new job—whether you are unemployed or looking to break into a new career—can be frustrating and lonely at times. Having someone you can talk to, run your resume by, and help open employment doors for you can be invaluable. Family members and friends, although well meaning, don’t always fit the bill or understand what you’re going through.
Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University in Boston says, “Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career-exploration opportunities.”
David Sanford, executive vice president of client relations at staffing firm WinterWyman, shares the following benefits to having a job-search mentor:
1. You’ll open up new doors to networking
A professional mentor in your job field can keep his eyes and ears open for you, thus increasing your chances of finding a job in your field and expanding your own network.
2. Having someone on your side
A job search mentor is someone looking out for your best interests, unlike a recruiter who gets paid a commission to place you in any type of job. Also, aside from the optional cup of coffee you can buy them, they’re free.
3. A job search mentor tells it like it is
A mentor doesn’t just provide unconditioned support, but 100 percent honesty also. If your cover letter sucks or your resume reads like a technical manual, they’ll tell you and set you back on the right course.
4. Find the best mentor for you
If you know someone who works in the field you would like to break into, don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance. Most people would be flattered by the opportunity to give back, since everyone is looking for a job at one time or another.
Contact a past manager, colleague, or someone you met at a seminar and ask if they would be willing to mentor you through your chosen career path. Can’t think of anyone? Contact a career counselor at your local college for suggestions.
5. Make the most of your mentor’s time
If someone does agree to mentor you through your job search, Sarikas recommends taking the following precautions:
- You are not paying for your mentor’s time, so be respectful of it. Show up for meetings promptly and return emails and phone calls ASAP.
- Keep the relationship strictly professional. This isn’t the time to be whining about your marriage or venting about your friends.
- Be open to constructive feedback, whether it regards your resume, your attitude, or the areas you are job searching in.
- In follow up meetings or emails, have something to show for your mentor’s time. If they suggested resume changes, show the updated version. If they suggested a job lead, let them know you followed up on it.
- Be grateful for any assistance offered, even if it wasn’t as much help as you were hoping for. Be quick to volunteer your services should your mentor ask for your help in something.
Who knows, your mentoring services may be asked for one day, and you can consider this paying it forward.