Job hunting is tough. It’s a process that requires unrelenting dedication, optimism, and focus. Losing any of those factors can take you out of the game and back on the couch faster than you can reinstall World of Warcraft. What I found to be one of my greatest assets during my search was my mentor, who’s guidance, advice, and his take no BS attitude pushed me through various stages of my search and always made sure I was moving forward. Bud Fox had Gordon Gekko, Jessie had Walter White, and Luke Skywalker had Yoda. Being in one of these relationships made me see firsthand the importance and benefit you can gain if you know how to maintain a mentor-mentee relationship! If you are looking for your next job or trying to make a transition in your career, you should seek out someone who will work with you and walk you through the tricky minefield of job postings, interviews, offer letters, and negotiations; especially if it’s within a field you’re not familiar with or trying to break into. A coach who has walked this route before will love nothing more than to keep you from making the same mistakes that they made in the past and give you all the inside information you only wish you knew. So tell me again why you’re job hunting solo?
I found my mentor by networking and being plain lucky (I know very cliché), but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the same route! I just graduated and was looking to break into the warm and fuzzy world of post 2008 finance. I hit a wall in my search and wasn’t gaining much traction so in a long overdue effort, I started giving my resume to my favorite professors, closest friends, and family members, asking them for their opinions and feedback, but more importantly I asked if they needed copies to give to their friends. Out of the blue, I received a call from an ex powerhouse executive from one of the big banks who fought on the front lines of the financial crisis and decided to go rogue (the gutsy way of retiring). This guy was gritty, borderline genius, intimidating, and the husband to a co-worker who kinda-sorta knew my mom from a few jobs back in the day; so trust me when I say you will have no idea how far your will resume go once it’s out there!
For the sake of this post, I’ll call my mentor Jimmy. When I picked up the phone Jimmy had this stern and serious tone that drove the point home when he suggested I burn my resume. I’ve been hearing a lot of fluff from my family and friends, telling me that it’s good I’ve been applying to so many jobs and something will happen soon, but Jimmy had about as much fluff as a panzer tank. What he gave me were my two greatest tools for my job searches; accountability and honesty. I made arrangements to have coffee with Jimmy every Sunday and he wouldn’t ask how my search was going, he would ask how many alumni was I actively networking with, what newspapers did I write editorials for, how many live calls did I have with hiring managers, what industry books and magazines I was reading, and if all I had to say was I was sending my resume out on-line, he would chew me up and spit me out like old dog food. Jimmy was my volunteer life-coach and boss who I reported to on the status of my job search. By being brutally honest with me he taught me how be honest with myself. When you have someone you can trust to give you an honest evaluation of your situation (career or life) and provide you with strategies stemming from their own trial and error, you have a mentor who will save you from countless frustrations and put you in the fast-track to standing in their shoes.
I would recommend that you try to find yourself several mentors. Get on the phone with alumni or start getting names on LinkedIn of people who have mastered the field you are trying to get into. Humbly ask for a few minutes to chat about how they have worked their way to success. Get the inside opinion on the state of the industry, any trends going on with the market, or bring up some articles that they were mentioned in. These smart questions will require you to do your homework, but you will only get back what you put in- invest your time wisely! If you can impress someone just enough so that urge to hang-up on you fades away, always ask if they would have time to meet for coffee or if you can send your resume for some honest feedback. This is a huge effort on your end and requires you to stay humble, confident, and maintain an unyielding attitude, but the value of finding someone like Jimmy is immeasurable. Jimmy has coached me through multiple job-searches, updated my wardrobe to the NYC standard, walked me through apartment hunts, and is my go to for all advice (personal and professional). Jimmy and I are great friends but we would not have met had it not been for water cooler chat about an episode of Glee. My best advice would be to go out and find your Jimmy. He could be a neighbor, a weekend volunteer, someone in a library reading Bloomberg, a name tag you meet at a chamber of commerce breakfast, or maybe… just maybe… your friendly agency recruiter!