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Getting your degree is one critical component to moving ahead in your desired career path. Another aspect to consider is working with a career mentor. Kimberly Williams, Strayer University South Raleigh Campus Dean, explains the ins and outs of choosing a mentor.
Williams says that an ideal career mentor is preferably someone in the position you’d like to have someday. “Even if they’re not in the exact position you hope to hold, they’re going to be current in their industry, so they’ll know what’s expected, what’s new, and what you need to be aware of,” she says. “They’ll have insights that someone outside the industry won’t have.”
If the mentor holds the position you hope to attain, they can provide even more detailed information. “They’ll be able to let you know what specific types of skills are needed for that position, where to look for interviews, and how to prepare for them,” Williams says. “The right mentor will give you a thorough picture.”
It’s not a guaranteed result, but it’s possible that working closely with a career mentor could lead to networking opportunities. “If the mentor has worked with you closely and knows you, they may feel open to recommending you,” she says. “It can make a huge difference to have them present you as a viable candidate to potential employers.”
A subtler aspect of working with a career mentor is the potential to have a role model for your own career (and sometimes personal) development. “A good mentor is a leader by example,” says Williams. “They’re experienced in a certain area, and they’ll provide insight on opportunities as well as honest feedback and constructive criticism.”
Williams says that while most universities provide an array of support services and coaching, mentors are not usually assigned—meaning that the student needs to find one on their own. That will take research, whether through university or industry resources, to find the right companies and the right people at those companies. It can also take several tries to find someone who is right for you, and who has the time and ability to take on a mentorship role. “Keep in mind that it usually doesn’t take more than 10 minutes of conversation to know if someone is right for you,” Williams explains.
To begin your search, consider working through these resources:
To some degree, the qualities you want to look for are going to be specific to you, depending on your personality type. However, Williams suggests several universal things to consider when approaching a mentor/mentee relationship. A good partnership:
Working with a mentor can have intangible, yet powerful results. Finding the person who wants to help you achieve the best outcomes for your career can make a profound difference. And it’s not just networking; it’s about understanding yourself and learning what it takes to succeed.
Learn more about Strayer University’s online degree programs.