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My mentor has not been able to steer me to a job.. What’s wrong?

Dear AAPAAN: “I have matched with a mentor but thus far she had not been able to steer me to a job. What’s wrong?” – Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You are responsible for your own career and not your mentor. He/she can help you discover or develop yourself and give you clues on how and where to look, but ultimately it’s up to you to find that job.

Before you were paired with a mentor, you need to find out how this person can help you and in what way. I summarized some types of mentorship relations below:

  • Peer mentor: share experience to learn best practice in the same/similar area across different organization or business
  • Mentor as a sounding board: get a different opinion/viewpoint on business issues/problems/how you approach a problem etc.
  • SME (subject matter expert) mentor: can be your supervisor or someone who is an authority in a particular area or topic, who can help you improve your skillset in a particular area
  • Leadership/behavioral mentor: who can help you develop and improve your soft skills and navigate through the organization
  • Mentor to expand your network within organization: help you intentionally expand your network out of your silo

If you want to find your next job opportunity or have a career advancement in your organization, one or two mentors are not sufficient, unless your mentor can be your sponsor who advocates for you. The sponsor needs to be someone in power, and have decision making rights or influence in your interested area/business/roles. Through your mentorship or even performance review with your supervisor, you can express your interest in your next roles and ask your mentor or supervisor on how to increase your visibility to your potential sponsors. For example, you can lead a company-wide project that will drive growth or productivity and present the project in front of the leadership team; or volunteer to the campus recruiting event so that you can have some time with the key speaker of that event (usually it’s a VP/GM level person to speak at the campus.) To share a personal example, after I graduated from Darden, I was invited to Darden campus recruiting events several times. On one recruiting event, I got a chance to drive with a VP/GM to the campus for 5 hrs each way (thanks to the bad traffic).  After that 10 hour chat, I shared opinions with this VP/GM and stayed in touch afterward.  Three months later, I landed my next dream job under his organization. This was not planned, but if you can create opportunities to increase your visibility and make good impressions in front of your potential sponsors, your chances of landing the next dream job will be much higher.

In summary, you cannot just purely rely on the mentorship to get your next job or your career advancement. You need to think about who can be your sponsor and leverage your mentorship relations. Then you can start to cultivate the relationship and create opportunities to make good impressions. Remember that you are responsible for your own career, be yourself and leverage your mentor or your supervisor’s resources to help achieve the goal.