When I was in Year 11, I was given the option to take an online career test. As someone who did not have the faintest idea as to what they wanted to do, I grudgingly obliged and sat the test. When the results came back I was told that I should become an architect. Whilst my love of LEGO is unrivalled, I personally felt that the test had taken me no closer to knowing what I wanted to do.
Perhaps, unbeknown to myself, I did possess the intellectual acuity to become an architect. Yet, even then I knew that none of my chosen A-Levels seemed relevant to architecture and unless, the Spirit of Einstein bewitched me overnight, this wasn’t going to change. For me, the test had failed to address a number of factors. Perhaps in an alternative reality, I opened my test results and decided to listen to the test, and become an architect. Nonetheless, I would have been just as stumped; no further advice was provided by the career service as to what to do next in order to pursue such a career!
This experience does not seem to be an abnormality. In fact, there seems to be a crisis facing millennials in 21st century Britain. Millennials are not receiving good enough tailored career advice, with only half actually experiencing any formal career advice at all. Millennials are not receiving enough information concerning how to break into chosen industries, or even whether certain jobs actually match their expertise. Subsequently, 1 in 3 millennials are entering jobs that do not suit their skill-set; resulting in lower salaries than those who venture into jobs that actually complement their abilities and knowledge. Moreover, through lack of information, millennials are being forced to navigate the daunting and isolating job-market alone, leading to lower aspirations.
One answer to this problem is found through mentorship, and in particular professional mentorship. When the idea of mentorship was first presented to me, I immediately thought of Mr Han and Dre Parker in Karate Kid. And whilst one is unlikely to become a martial-arts master through professional mentorship, the guidance provided by Mr Han (a man with experience in his field,) carries through. Strictly speaking, professional mentorship involves the sharing of expertise and knowledge, by a professional working in a competitive career, with a young-person seeking out career advice. For some, the thought of interacting with adults stirs up images of uncomfortable conversations about politics with family members at Christmas. However, professional mentorship can be an immensely positive and rewarding experience.
Firstly, having a supportive mentor who believes in you and your career aspirations will do great things for your confidence. You may have just started at a new job, and have had a tough few days at work. A professional mentor will have probably encountered similar experiences and set-backs. Hence, they can provide you with the encouragement and advice needed to overcome such problems, as they have been there and done it! This will in turn boost your confidence; instead of remaining in-the-dark over an issue, you will learn from the situation and in the process, acquire knowledge beneficial to your job. This point is supported by the fact that mentees are promoted five times more often than those not in a mentoring program.
Mentors can also be extremely valuable in helping you attain a job or internship. If you are looking to work in investment banking, per se, and your mentor works in this field, then they can provide you with relevant information on how to write your CV and cover letters, approach interviews, and impress employees. What’s more, mentors can also teach you new skills, such as how to better improve your communication, or develop leadership qualities. Put plainly, mentors can give you a “leg-up” into a career, unattainable to those who lack a mentor. Furthermore, mentors can answer your specific questions concerning their job, that career advisory services simply cannot answer. The statistics surrounding professional mentorship programmes provide weight to this conclusion. Of those with a mentor 97% say they are valuable. Additionally, 94% of mentees are likely to use what they learnt within a week!
This article has only really touched the surface of the enormous number of benefits provided by mentors. However, if you are a millennial wanting to enhance your career prospects, then getting a mentor is a really great place to start. One company offering millennials the opportunity to attain professional mentors for free is Young & Giving (www.youngandgiving.com.) To end on a quote by Richard Branson: “if you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point down the road.”