Navigating your first position after graduation can be nerve-wracking, exciting, and slightly overwhelming. Having a mentor can help you navigate the behavioral norms at your organization, give you suggestions on how to make a positive impression, and share advice on what it takes to be a successful employee. Here are my tips for finding a mentor at your first post-UConn position:
CHOOSING A MENTOR
Don’t rely on your supervisor to be your mentor
While it’s wonderful if you have a great ally in your supervisor, it is important that you don’t rely on your boss to be your mentor. Even if they care about your best interests and growth, your boss may also be balancing priorities from the organization and higher management. For confidential advice on career-related issues and professional development it’s important to seek out a mentor who can be impartial when providing career advice. As you move forward in your career, previous supervisors can make great mentors.
Have more than one mentor
Don’t rely on one person for all of your career questions. Having a couple of mentors both within and outside your organization can help you have different people to turn to depending on the topic. A mentor within your organization may be able to share specific advice or advocate you’re your behalf, whereas an outside mentor might be more impartial and confidential. Some mentors might be a great resource for short term career support, whereas others might be people you continue to reach out to throughout your career.
Find a peer mentor
In addition to having a mentor in a leadership role who can provide advocacy and advice, it’s important to have someone at your level for straightforward questions like where to eat lunch. This person may have recently transitioned into the company and will be able to share integration strategies that worked for them in the past.
Look for commonalities
Search for mentors that you have something in common with. This could be another UConn alum who recently graduated from your program, or could mean seeking out a mentor with similar life experiences, such as a female engineer if you are a woman entering the STEM field.
Look for role models within your field or organization
A mentor should be someone well respected, whose opinion you value and trust. Take some time to get a feel for the landscape of the new organization, and see whose behavior and ethics you would want to emulate.
BUILDING THE MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
Official mentoring programs
If your organization offers a formalized mentorship program, take advantage of the opportunity! This is a great way to meet new people at your organization who are eager to help new employees. Try not to put too much pressure on the new relationship and start by scheduling regular meetings, coffee breaks, or attending informal work related events.
Cultivate informal mentoring relationships
Not all mentoring relationships develop out of formal programs, some grow informally over time and may never be given an official title. If you’ve identified someone you’d like to support you as your mentor, make an effort to develop the relationship. Offer to take them out to lunch or coffee to seek their advice and guidance. These informal meetings can eventually morph into an on-going mentorship if you both click well together. Be careful not to overwhelm your mentor, or ask for too much. Find ways to make the relationship mutually beneficial by sharing your own fresh insights or finding way to support each other’s projects.
Maintain mentoring relationships
Mentoring relationships take work, especially on the part of the mentee to maintain contact. Be sure to check in with regular updates, and share your thanks, especially after any big career changes.
Pay it forward
As new recent graduates are hired, and you move into more senior roles, take the initiative to reach out and provide support to new hires in their transition from college to after-graduation employment.
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