Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Job/Internship Search

And I want a mentor

“I am looking for a challenging job that pays well in a fast-growing company with a great culture… and I want a mentor.”

“You want your manager to be your mentor?”, I clarify.

“Yes. That’s what I want. I really need someone to mentor me – to watch over my career and guide me to be successful.”

Dream on. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it’s hard enough to find a mentor who is not your manager. Today, it’s hard enough to just find a job.

To expect your next manager to be your mentor too is asking way too much. And not just because of the ugly job market. This truth holds in any job market – even a hot one.

Managers have their hands full just managing the people and the business. Honestly, it’s the rare manager who is considered outstanding by his or her employees. And many of those managers are not mentors to their employees. If you have one now or have had one in the past, be thankful. Be very thankful.

In today’s free agent world, embrace career self-reliance where you own your career and professional development. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you will find a manager or company who will be a willing and capable mentor and closely watch over you.

Rather than dreaming about one mentor who’s also your manager, consider developing a set of advisors who you can turn to for perspective, advice, and honest, direct feedback. Sometimes called a personal advisory board, each person has unique experience and knowledge to help you with specific issue.

You can develop mentor relationships with a variety of people. And they don’t have to work inside your company. In fact, you will benefit greatly if they don’t.

It may turn out that you get a challenging job that pays well in a fast-growing company with a great culture. And your manager turns out to be outstanding… and your mentor. If so, congratulations!

Do you have a mentor? How did you find your mentor? Is it your manager?

How bad is it

I’ll admit it. I am an optimistic fella. I don’t like to deliver bad news. I always find a silver lining.

But I cannot tell a lie. It’s bad out there.

Right now, many students are speaking to companies in all sectors and getting a similar reply “We are not hiring.” It’s discouraging.

BUT – it’s not hopeless. I sincerely mean that. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Even though companies are laying off people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not hiring. Managers in a wide range of companies have recently told me, “Yes, we have had a layoff. But we’ll be hiring in select positions if we meet great people.” You can be the one that they will hire.

2. In the past several years, MBA students had more options. But there were many good but less well-known employers who wished that they could hire someone like you. Today, those employers are interested in you and some are hiring. You just have to be proactive in going after them and you must communicate your sincere interest in them. Don’t dismiss them as being “below you.” They could be the hidden gem of an opportunity that no one knew of before.

3. In the job hunt, there’s a Hidden Job Market. In fact, it’s at least 3 times bigger than the jobs that you see posted on job boards, career fairs, and on-campus recruiting. Many employers do not post job opportunities because they prefer to find candidates through referrals. Others don’t want to get inundated with resumes. Others use executive recruiting firms. Some jobs never get posted because they find a great candidate before it gets posted. And many employers actually create a job when they meet a great candidate who worked their way into the company with effective networking. You can be one of those great candidates.

4. Your next job will not be your last job. When the market is tight, most people are just thankful to have a job. Almost any job. And people work very hard to perform well just to keep their job. As the market improves, opportunities arise and changes are possible. Especially for the people who performed well. One myth that I’d love to destroy is the belief that the first job after college or business school will set your trajectory for the rest of your life. Ugh! I have seen so many friends, colleagues and alumni disprove that belief. If you disagree and decide to hold onto that belief, ask yourself “How will this belief be helpful to me?” It won’t. Please burn it.

My advice: If you’re a graduating student this year and you’d like to start your post-graduation job in the early Fall, there’s a lot of time between now and then. Now I know that many of you wanted to have a job in hand before graduation, but employers’ hiring timeline may not be cooperative. Your primary goal is to secure that job starting in the fall. Depending on how things work, I’d be prepared to be job hunting during the summer.

I know it’s not what you want to hear. Nevertheless, prepare yourself by setting your expectations correctly. And stay focused on your primary goal.

What’s giving you HOPE in this tough job market?