If you are a recent college graduate, considering a career change or a significant promotion, then consider having a professional career coach or mentor. Career coaching and professional mentors are more then just networking with colleagues or other like minded professionals in your career field. Often times, mentors have been through the same career advancement processes and overcome some of the same challenges you may encounter. Taping into their knowledge and advice can overwhelmingly provide you that competitive edge, many professionals overlook until they are pass by for that promotion.
Using a career coach or a mentor provides a level of accountability and motivational support throughout your career growth. If you have a list of companies to which are applying to or a promotion you are seeking, then you are more likely to take action before your next meeting with your mentor.
Everyone needs a sounding board. A good coach could help you make decisions without necessarily giving you advice. Most of the time, hearing yourself say what you need to do is a great way to make smart decisions. A mentor is also a great resource to practice interviewing with and to help you polish your resume.
Professional networking and references. Your mentor will get to know you very well. Having the ability to use your career coach or mentor as a professional reference can be a powerful career option for years to come. And he or she can help you expand your professional network by introducing you to career opportunities or adjoining industries you may not on your own have considered.
Your mentor should be one who is in a place in his or her life where you hope to be in the future. For example, if you are interested in teacher jobs, then your mentor needs to be an experienced educator who can help you with your curriculum writing and other career related activities in the field of education. For those who are interested in business careers, then your mentors should be a business professional. An ideal mentor is one who has long been employed at a company or within an industry in which you want to work.
Define the relationship. Some people have a misunderstanding of the purpose of a mentor or how to use a career coach. Let’s clear two issues.
Although a mentor can help you with your job and search and career growth; a mentor is not an emotional counselor and the mentoring relationship is not indefinite.
When you ask someone to be your mentor you need to be very specific about what their purpose will be and how long the relationship will last. Properly define your expectations and boundaries early on to avoid any uncomfortable issues.
Set up specific goals and objectives for the mentoring relationship.
The goals should be few and specific, for example:
“My goal is to write a resume and expand my professional references so that I can get ABC job in the XYZ industry.”
Tell them why you want them to be your mentor.
“I see that you have XYZ job in this company. Someday, I’d like to be where you are, and I was hoping that I could learn from you about what made you successful.” Be sure to mention that you are looking for specific career advice. You are interested in what they’ve done to be successful and what coaching and guidance they can provide to follow a similar career path.
Set up a mutually beneficial meeting time and place. Face to face is always best, but a good career coach can be as effective via telephone. It’s recommended that you and your mentor meet once a week or once every other week.
Create a timeline for these meetings for example: Once a week for a month, then every other week for the second month.
Your goal is to use a career coach to guide you through various career steps. You may want to check in every quarter or annually, but your initial meetings will not continue forever.
The mentor is more likely to agree to a mentoring relationship if there is a specific time frame in which you will work together. Remember, your career coach or professional mentor has a vested interest in your success. In essence, you are their student so your actions can reflect back to them so find a coach and show them why they should choose you.