When you’re a young Padawan taking your first steps into the corporate world, a Yoda-like mentor can spur your growth and help you overcome hurdles. In fact, studies show that those who receive career mentoring are promoted five times more often than employees without a mentor.
Mentors provide the personalised guidance that you might need as you enter a new industry and take on new roles. Think of it as your professional support system – your mentors will be your go-tos for asking questions, making connections in your industry, and gaining clarity in your career. And yes, you can certainly have more than one!
But if you’re just starting out in the working world, you likely don’t have a professional network that you can tap for mentorship – yet. To kickstart your journey, we’ve put together a beginner-friendly guide to finding your first career mentor.
Define your career direction
Before finding a mentor to guide you on your path, you’ll first need to figure out what path you want to carve out.
While you don’t necessarily need to decide on where you see yourself in five years, it helps to have a solid idea of what you want in the short term. You can start by thinking about questions such as:
With clear answers in mind, you’ll be better able to define what you’re looking for in your mentors.
For instance, if you aspire to work in a specific sector, a leader in that sector will be able to give you industry insights and guidance on your career path. Looking to develop your leadership skills? You can seek out mentors with a leadership style that you resonate with – whether or not they are in a similar industry to yours.
Kick off some conversations on LinkedIn
If you aren’t already on LinkedIn, it’s time to start. Think of LinkedIn as a Tinder for corporate types – this networking platform is designed to help professionals connect with peers, employers, and thought leaders. For those who don’t have much of a professional network as yet, it’s a good launchpad to connect with mentors outside your immediate circle.
First things first: polish up your profile. Writing a creative bio and filling in your professional details will ensure you’re more than just a name on your potential mentor’s screen.
Next, search for people who interest you. For instance, if you’re exploring a marketing career, search for terms like “marketing specialist” to find industry leaders in Singapore who have your dream job.
At the same time, you can also find people who talk about #marketing on LinkedIn – this enables you to discover thought leaders who bring unique perspectives to the table.
Follow them on LinkedIn and start engaging with their content. While you can try sending a cold message right off the bat, it’s best to start small – who doesn’t like getting a thoughtful comment on their latest post? Ask insightful questions or share a quick thought to kickstart the conversation naturally.
Now that you’ve created a connection, slide into their DMs. The trick to reaching out is to be specific – you can sum up a specific challenge or decision that you’re facing, and ask if you could grab a virtual coffee with them to pick their brains. Keep things casual and let your connection deepen into a mentorship over time.
Explore your alumni network
Closer to home, your institution’s alumni network can help to connect you with more potential mentors.
Most universities, polys, and ITEs in Singapore will have alumni associations, where their graduates can sign up for career services and networking sessions. For example, fresh grads from NUS can plug into conNectUS, a professional networking platform where you can check out community events and access career mentors.
Pick a couple of networking events to start off, and show up with a goal in mind. Aim to get the business cards of at least two senior professionals in your industry, or get the social media of someone who’s working at your dream company.
After the event, don’t forget to follow up with a text or email to cement the connection. Thank them for the great chat on [insert conversation topic], and suggest a meetup to continue your conversation.
Ask about mentorship support in your workplace
While mentors outside your workplace can provide a valuable external perspective, mentors in your own office will be best-placed to help you grow within the organisation. And though only 11% of Singapore youth have participated in formal mentoring programmes at work, that number is set to change as mentorship support catches on with more companies.
To help fresh grads get the support they need, NTUC is launching a Career Starter Lab Pilot. This programme features a three-month career trial for jobseekers to explore a job fit with a hosting company, before embarking on full-time employment.
During the three months, you will be matched with a workplace mentor and undergo a structured training programme.
A workplace mentor on your side can smooth your transition from classroom to corporate life, enabling you to pick up best practices and get constructive criticism. By the end of this year, NTUC plans to have over 100 companies across various industries on board – including the likes of Rolls-Royce, YCH Group, and Copthorne King’s Hotel.
Discover your first career mentor with Young NTUC
Stepping into the corporate world may be scary, but you don’t need to go alone. Get a headstart on finding the right mentor with Young NTUC.
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