How Mentorship Fuels Career Growth

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By Shiela Mie Legaspi

For recent college graduates, entering the workforce has never been scarier. With stark changes in the American workplace after the COVID-19 pandemic, economic concerns, and tough hiring processes, trying to break into competitive fields can be especially daunting. Most jobs appear to be looking to hire individuals with prior work experience in their industry, but how can you be expected to have that fresh out of college?

According to research from the University of Washington, 53% of recent graduates are unemployed for up to six months after leaving school or find jobs that do not correspond to their level of education. Although this rather bleak statistic does improve with time — the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 87% of adults aged 25-34 with bachelor’s degrees were employed in 2022 — it makes sense that college graduates would want to be prepared as possible after graduation. 

Finding a mentorship can make all the difference for recent college graduates, as the need for guidance and support during this trepidatious time cannot be overstated. By taking advantage of the numerous benefits mentorships can provide, college graduates will be more equipped not only to find jobs in competitive markets but to keep them. 

What is mentorship?

Mentorships have become increasingly popular over the last several years, but they are still an underutilized resource. A mentor is typically someone with experience and success in the field you want to work in who can help guide you as you navigate through the job search and assimilation process. Mentors can provide you with invaluable, first-hand career advice and help you feel less alone during your first steps into the professional world. 

Many college career centers offer programs that connect students with mentors, but you can also take matters into your own hands by reaching out to potential mentors via social platforms such as LinkedIn or Instagram. The most important aspect of a mentorship relationship is trust — you want to connect with someone who genuinely wants to see you succeed. 

Take your time and do your research before selecting a mentor to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your experience. Some potential benefits include: 

1. Unique networking opportunities

Networking is one of the most important tools in your arsenal when searching for a job. Most people who are successful in their fields have developed an extensive network around them of other influential professionals. 

With a well-connected mentor, you will have access to their contacts, which may be instrumental in helping you find a job. As Forbes states, between 70-80% of jobs are not posted for the public to access. To be recommended for an interview for these “secret” opportunities, it’s useful to be endorsed by someone well-respected in your field.

If networking makes you nervous or uncomfortable, fear not — that’s something else your mentor can help you with, as they likely have years of experience in networking under their belt. By observing your mentor interact with others and learning from their experience what approaches work best, you will be able to grow your skills in this area.

2. Expanded perspectives and direction 

The first time on the job market can be overwhelming for college graduates. At some point in your journey, you might find yourself at a crossroads. Perhaps you’re stuck deciding between two job opportunities, struggling to connect with your boss, or simply aren’t enjoying your first job and aren’t sure whether to stick it out until you get a promotion or look for different work. 

While talking things out with your friends or family can be helpful, it’s much more beneficial to consult someone with direct experience. Your mentor will have a unique perspective on your situation, perhaps being able to see advantages to certain paths that you can’t or give advice for dealing with delicate matters.

3. Help develop personal and professional identities

Though legal adults, college graduates are still adapting and changing as individuals. The University of Rochester Medical Center notes that most adults do not reach full maturity until their brains stop developing around the age of 25 — often several years after many people complete their undergraduate studies. As a result, in the years after college, it’s important to surround yourself with people who can be role models and set a positive example for you as you grow into your identity, both personally and professionally. 

As your mentor interacts with you, they can neutrally observe your strengths and weaknesses, help you leverage those strengths, and devise plans to work on your weaknesses so that you can become the optimal job candidate or employee. Mentors also offer constructive insights on how to maintain a professional standard without sacrificing your values or enjoyment of your work. While on the surface, a mentor is there to help you with your career, a great mentor will also help you build a strong character, which will help you succeed in life far beyond those initial years out of college.

4. Honing skillsets to build expertise in a specific niche

Networking isn’t the only important skill to have in the workforce, and mentors have crucial skill sets and ideas to pass down to their mentees. It’s likely that your first job will not be your last. If you have a particular goal, such as developing a certain skill or reaching a specific role or title within a company, a mentor who has already achieved that goal will be able to offer wisdom you can’t get from anywhere else. If you don’t have a goal in mind and simply want to find success in your field, a mentor may alternatively be able to help you learn niche skills that will help you stand out from other candidates in the job market. Either way, a mentor helping you develop an actionable plan and providing you with real-time feedback will allow you to realize your personal goals faster and with greater confidence.

5. Developing a mindset centered around lifelong learning and support 

A mentorship may provide immediate results, such as a new job or practical advice, but the benefits extend long-term. A mentor can help you cultivate a growth mindset that may take others years to develop on their own — if they ever do. 

By developing and embracing a love of learning and a desire to continuously improve yourself early on, you set yourself up for never-ending achievement. Mentees are encouraged and empowered to take calculated risks, seize new opportunities, and step up to new challenges, and they feel empowered to do so because they know they have the support of a trusted mentor. Knowing when you need help is a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life, and mentorship allows you to become independent while still having access to that necessary help.  

Studies indicate that individuals in the workforce that participate in mentorships have more frequent salary increases and promotions, higher job retention, and a lower risk of making critical mistakes. Yet, according to Forbes, “only 37% [of individuals] have one.” College graduates are doing a disservice to themselves if they do not consider mentorship to help guide them through today’s extremely competitive job market — the possibilities are boundless in both personal and career growth.

About the Author: Shiela Mie Legaspi is the President of Cyberbacker, the leading provider of virtual assistance and administrative support services from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world. Legaspi is an expert on career coaching in the remote workplace, and she leads the company to organizational excellence through her work centered around workforce experience.

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