Sometimes it can be easy as a graduate to get into your own head when you’re looking for a job and feel like you’re the only person in the world who has ever been in this situation. Believe it or not, that feeling that you’re experiencing is not unique to you. In fact, there are countless people out there who have gone through what you have before and come out the other side.

Graduating today looks a lot different than it used to. The pace at which technology is evolving means that many of the jobs available today didn’t exist ten years ago. Turning to your parents and careers departments in universities for antiquated advice on an employment market that is moving so fast can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

In fact, in a survey we carried out with graduates last year, only half of the respondents said they have someone in their network to turn to for career advice. This is where mentorship comes in.

Graph showing 50-50 split of yes and no result of "Did you have anyone in your network you were able to turn to for career advice?"
Graduate outcomes survey

The value of mentorship

Mentorship can be a valuable asset in both the early stages as well as right throughout the duration of your career. Not only can mentors offer their mentees life lessons and insights based on their lived experience but they also open doors to professional networks and can facilitate connections to other people who might be able to offer help.

Irrespective of what your goals are, you can usually find a mentor to help you navigate your path and avoid some of the obstacles they had to overcome. In fact, research from the American Psychological Association found that being mentored can be a key driver in your career development. Additionally, SAP HR Research examined 43 studies published over the last 30 years and found a positive correlation with the career outcomes of mentored vs. non-mentored employees.

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington

Those with mentors received higher compensation, a greater number of promotions, felt more satisfied and committed to their career and were more likely to believe they would advance. Furthermore, 76% of people view mentors as important to their overall success. Our own research backs those findings up as well. In a survey of 209 respondents taken last year, 94% of graduates agreed that they would find it beneficial to have a dedicated mentor to support their career.

Gradguide Survey result: Question: How beneficial would you find having a dedicated mentor to support your career? Majority result: 43.1% marked "Quite Beneficial"
Graduate outcomes survey

Having run our mentorship programme for over two years, we've identified some steps you can take to ensure that you can not only find mentors, but identify ones who can help you set goals, map out your career path, define strategies and objectives to reach milestones, and adapt that plan if things aren’t going well.

1. Decide what you want to do

Admittedly, it can be difficult throughout your time in university to decide what career path you want to pursue. As a graduate looking for your first full-time role, the abundance of options can leave you feeling overwhelmed and often, you end up doing nothing.

However, a fundamental part of both personal, as well as professional development, is having a clear vision of where you want to go. By starting off with an idea of what kind of job you want or the industry you want to work in, you can more clearly identify the support you’ll need to get there. We've written a blog before on goal-setting for your career which should be a good place to start.

2. Identify the support you currently have

There are many different types of support a mentee can get from a mentor. Common examples include general career advice, introductions to their network, recommendations on how to set professional goals, skills required for the role or industry you’re looking at, how to achieve work-life balance and, of course, emotional support when things aren’t going quite as planned.

It’s crucial to honestly assess and think through which of these areas you currently have adequate support in and where you don’t. The purpose of this exercise is to give you an idea of the network of support you have around you to help you achieve your goals. What skills do you need to develop? What connections will you need to make? What knowledge do you need to obtain?

3. Find the support you need

The transition from college to the working world is a time of rapid growth that will require you to make several important decisions. What industry should you work in? Do you prefer a start-up or a bigger company? Which job should you apply to? How do you negotiate your salary?

If you’re fortunate enough to have people you can turn to for some of the support listed above, that’s a great start. One of the benefits of having a mentor is that you get to learn from their past experiences which should enable you to avoid making the same mistakes they did. However, their advice is shaped by their career path, values, and goals meaning, however well-intentioned they are, their advice is also inherently biased.

While this will be the case irrespective of how many mentors you have, you can derive a lot of value from diversifying your portfolio of mentors to ensure you will be able to get the support you need without over-burdening one person as well as to find the right people to help you navigate the problems they are uniquely suited to solve. Then, you can take parts of what each has to offer and decide for yourself which are most relevant for you at this point in your career.

What next?

Good mentors can be pivotal during major junctures of your life, both personally and professionally. We have grown our mentorship network to over 250 people from a variety of backgrounds, working at companies of every size to ensure you get access to a diversity of backgrounds, opinions and viewpoints.

If you're a student or recent graduate interested in being mentored by someone a few years ahead of you on the employment ladder,you can sign up for our platform today.