The Do’s and Don’ts of Finding a Mentor in Your First Job

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Finding a Mentor African-american businessman presenting his ideas to colleague at meeting

by Ellen Ensher, Ph.D

Recently, I was interviewed by USA Today and NerdWallet writer, Brianna McGuran, about tips to help new college graduates to find a mentor in their first job.  There were some great ideas in the article that can apply to new graduates and more experienced professionals. The top points were:

  • Do consider a mid-career mentor from within your own network.

I always recommend that you have a network of different types of mentors. So think about having a circle of mentors rather than just one. Have a traditional mentor who can introduce you to the key players in your industry, along with a step-ahead mentor who is one level up from you. In addition, be sure to include peer mentors in your mentoring circle to provide emotional support and who are going through the same experience as yourself.

  • Don’t be afraid to meet new mentors at industry events.

One of the best ways to brand yourself as a professional is to develop visibility in your field.  I suggest developing visibility both online and in person. Use LinkedIn groups and start becoming active in industry specific groups. In person, go to those networking meetings, eat the rubber chicken, chat with people and volunteer to serve on committees- volunteering your time is a great way to develop your social capital in the industry of your choice.

  • Do decide on specific goals and meeting times.

I had a mentor tell me he was like a blank check. He made it very clear he was available to me but it was up to me to set goals, meeting times and manage the logistics.  As the protégé, assume it your job to keep the relationship moving forward, unless your mentor requests otherwise.

  • Don’t immediately ask for a job.

Timing is everything. If you develop a solid circle of mentors and take the time to develop strong relationships, then when you need to ask for a job it will be a natural progression of the relationship.  Remember, mentors benefit when they recommend talented people for jobs so be seen as someone with high potential helps not only you but also reflects positively on your mentor.