The old saying goes that your return on an investment is only as good as what you put into it, and that sentiment goes doubly when it comes to the relationship you establish with your career mentor.

As the U.S. begins the slow but perceptible shift toward economic recovery, it’s important to know how changes in the job market can impact your options as you move into a new career. More importantly, however, is how well your career mentor understands your personal needs and goals as you search for that dream job.

Below we take a look at five important topics to discuss with your career mentor to make sure you’re getting the most out of the mentor-mentee investment.

1. Location, Location, Location

Almost as important as what you do is where you do it, and it’s critical that your mentor understand your position on moving for work. Good mentors will be able discuss your options with you based on their knowledge of current hotspots for your particular job.

For example, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of activity in the information technology and graphic design industries, and you may not have difficulty finding leads there; however, if you’re seeking employment in that field in New England you may need a mentor with more nuanced experience in that region.

2. Salary

You may find that negotiating your salary is even more difficult than finding a job once that first hurdle is accomplished. Many job seekers might feel any salary is a good salary, but this is the wrong tack to take.

Your opening salary sends a message about how you evaluate your own self-worth and can set the tone for every salary increase (or lack thereof) during your tenure at your new job. A career mentor can help you identify what you are worth based on your skill as well as what the market feels you are worth, and find that magic number that makes everyone happy.

3. Your Skills

Speaking of skills, it is absolutely imperative that you be candid about them with your career mentor so that she or he has a firm grasp on where you are in your education and your employability.

Mentors assume a vague position of authority over mentees and so many mentees are cowed into the desire to impress by exaggerating their skills. First, any mentor who exacerbates these feelings is not a good mentor and should be passed over; however, mentees must assume some responsibility in the relationship by being forthright about their abilities.

4. Your Personality

For good or ill, many job interviews boil down to how much the interviewer likes you. It may not have anything to do with your skills and everything to do with how well your evaluator believes you will mesh with the team.

That means you have to be honest with your mentor in your dealings with him or her. Don’t waste time putting on a show of professionalism, because that’s not going to help the mentor advise you on your ability to assimilate. Save the show for the interview, and use guidance from your mentor to make it a winning performance.

5. Your Dream Job!

Of course, the first thing you’ll probably want to discuss with your mentor is the job you’re seeking, but it almost goes without saying. One of the most valuable contributions a mentor can make is to explain to you your options given your desired goals.

Perhaps you want to be a veterinarian, but you are lacking in education or the proper skill set needed to complete such a rigorous program. A mentor should be able to discuss options with you that will get you as close to your dream as possible despite your limitations by suggesting alternatives (vet technician, zookeeper, animal husbandry specialist, etc.) and pointing you in the right direction with regard to getting the right training.

About the author: James Madeiros writes for Sociology Degree Programs, a career website providing distilled information on sociology careers, options for earning a social work degree, and sociology scholarships.


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