The very idea of entering the corporate world is daunting and riddled with unknowns. But this does not have to be the case. Mentors are an excellent resource that undergraduates can tap on to obtain a wealth of knowledge and support to succeed in the business world.
Not only is mentoring a professional activity, it is also a meaningful commitment that culminates in a trusted relationship. More than that, developing a healthy mentor-mentee relationship is probably one of the most critical things you can do to pave the way to professional success.
A mentor offers you wisdom, industry knowledge, support, empathy, and respect. He or she can also help you understand how your degree programme may best align with your career options.
This programme is held in partnership with the Harvard Business School Club of Singapore
- Define personal success and build self-awareness
- Develop an entrepreneurial mindset
- Achieve innovative and lateral out-of-the-box thinking
- Live in a cross-cultural world with no boundaries
- Understand business ethics, values, and sustainability
Mentors play a pivotal role in your career journey, from defining your career direction to giving you insights to your chosen industry. Most importantly, though, a mentor can provide a safe space for you to realise your goals, whether short-term or otherwise.
A mentor can be your direct supervisor, someone in your new department with more experience, or even someone from another company.
Define career goals
Look inward and evaluate yourself. Seek to identify your goals, dreams, and aspirations. Then, think about who would be the best to help you get there. With this in mind, you will be able to better conceptualise the type of mentor that you are searching for.
Next, consider the type of relationship you want by asking the following questions:
- Are you looking for a mentor who can be actively involved in your career development or to merely act as your consultant?
- How much time and effort are you prepared to commit to the mentorship - once a month or every semester?
- What kind of guidance do you expect from your mentor?
Invest in the relationship
Remember that this is a give-and-take relationship, and that favours are not a one-way street.. A good mentor-mentee relationship adds value to the mentor as well. Mentors will have their own goals and understanding what those goals are will get the mentorship off to a solid start.
Make yourself available for the mentorship - formally or informally. When allocated a prospective mentor, arrange regular meetings that are supplemented by email exchanges and phone contact. You can meet over a meal or at a cafe that is conducive for exchanging idea.
Be receptive to guidance and be willing to learn. Your performance will reflect the quality of the relationship that you have with your mentor, and careless blunders will undoubtedly make your mentor question your commitment to the relationship.
Clarify your expectations
Identify what you expect from a mentor. From the onset, there should be mutual agreement on issues relating to time commitments and the areas that you wish the mentor can best help you with.
Be sure not to overstretch your mentor by demanding too much time and attention or by becoming overly dependent.
Part ways if the fit is not right
Periodically evaluate if your assigned mentor is right for you. You should have a good grasp after several meetings as to whether the mentoring relationship is working out well. Ask yourself what you have gained in terms of values and knowledge, and what falls short.
It is natural for your goals and needs to evolve with the passage of time. Mentors who were previously right for you may no longer generate the same effectiveness or be as suitable. Changes in your career goals may also lead to a misalignment of interests between you and your mentor.
If you feel that it is time to go your separate ways. be upfront with your mentor. As mentors partake in this programme voluntarily, it is really important that you do not waste his or her time if you are not getting what you want from this relationship.
End the relationship amicably - through a courteous phone call or a face-to-face meeting. The bottom line is to be gracious and to emphasise the positive; tell your mentor what you have learnt thus far from him or her instead of focusing on shortcomings.
Do not let the end of the mentorship be the end of the relationship. Continue to stay in touch with the mentors who have positively impacted you.
A mentor can...
- Help you discover and define your career aspirations
- Assist you in making career decisions when opportunities arise
- Manage your expectations by evaluating your level of knowledge, skills and ability.
- Be a role model you can emulate
- Connect you with the right people in the industry
- Point out when you are off track and help you stay on course
- Share stories about their own academic journey and professional experience
- Act as a sounding board for you to express your concerns
- Provide feedback in a way that will help you gain insights to further develop specific skills or qualities
Consider your strengths and weaknesses, what you want to learn, as well as where you need to grow and be motivated in. The more you understand about yourself, the greater your odds of finding the right mentor.
Once you know what you really hope to gain from a mentor, you can begin your search. Look for someone who:
- Has the appropriate experience in order to adequately offer you advise to meet your goals. They need not be from the same industry or professional field.
- Has an acceptable track record in the market in terms of knowledge and character.
- Exemplifies the traits and skills that you want to emulate.
- Is passionate and committed to a long-term mentoring relationship with you.
- Has a positive, upbeat attitude - someone who will invest in you and celebrate your success.
- Has the necessary communication skills to relate to you.
- Can speak openly to you instead of making you feel uncomfortable.
- Genuinely wants to watch you grow.
- Is prepared to offer honest and constructive feedback.
If you continuously seek to connect with others throughout your undergraduate days by attending networking events and career talks, you will cross paths with many people will make great mentors.