Career mentorship: How it can help bridge the gap between education and employment

Job searching is hard and particularly when you are a student with limited experience. As a recent college graduate, I remember this all too well. Hence, the aim of this short blog post is to map my journey to landing my dream job in tech and how having a like-minded mentor who had completed this transition already helped me along the way 🗺.

For some brief context, I studied a bachelor of business (BBS) degree in Trinity College and oddly enough I didn’t actually start applying for full-time jobs until after I finished my degree. I found final year stressful enough between presentations, group projects and exams without the daunting task of searching through job listing sites, filling out long-winded applications and partaking in various interviews 😰. However, I feel I did obtain good experience throughout my college years to enhance my CV in time for when I did actually start applying. This included joining college societies, studying abroad and working part-time, all of which I would highly recommend 🙌.

Albeit, without doubt, the experience that was most influential in helping me secure my first job after college was partaking in a student-led charity initiative known as 100minds in the second year of my studies. I still remember coming across the online application on Facebook and while I wanted to support the charities, I was apprehensive to signup as I knew little about it at the time and feared it would be very time consuming (potentially jeopardize my exam results) — how wrong I was 😁. For those who are unaware, 100minds is a not-for-profit organization that connects third level students across Ireland with young professional mentors to collectively raise a large sum of money for a selected children’s charity. This mentorship arrangement definitely played a big part in me landing my dream job in tech after college 👨‍💻.

I happened to be paired up with Cian Kennedy the then Marketing Manager of Uber Dublin who helped me reach my fundraising goal. Having also studied business and being a few years out of college at this stage, he was the perfect person for providing me with practical career advice too. This would be done over short informal chats in Dublin City Centre coffee shops (Coffee Angel mainly), phone calls or WhatsApp messages. As I had often mentioned my interest in technology and tech start-ups with him, when Uber was looking for a part-time employee in the Dublin office, Cian referred me in 🎉.

My job at Uber was effectively business development for their driver/partner side of operations. This involved onboarding new taxi drivers and training them on how to use the mobile app. This would involve ringing drivers who had started the signup process online, on-boarding drivers manually in-person in the office and sometimes (weather permitting) we would even try our luck at selling Uber to taxi drivers as they waited in the ranks armed with iPads and referral bonuses 🚕 .

In early 2015, Uber was very much an early-stage start-up, especially in Europe. The Dublin Office comprised of three people meaning there was great exposure for me as a student still in college helping out on a part-time basis 👌🏼. This was my first introduction to ‘tech sales’ in a sense, receiving a wage and commission on every driver I successfully signed-up and I loved it! 😍

I finished up in this role as I was moving abroad for the third year of my degree and despite the help of my former manager in trying to sort out a similar job for me in Uber, Paris, my French was in no way strong enough to do so 😅.

Fast forward to when I did kick off my job search late 2017 ⏭. I was lucky that I knew I wanted to work in tech sales at this stage based on my time in Uber. It was then a case, that I reached out to my ‘mentor’ Cian once more through LinkedIn looking for advice on what entry-level positions I was eligible for and what companies I should apply for 🤔 I handpicked some companies I would like to work at, all Irish success stories with influential leaders I had followed on Twitter for years — these included Intercom, Stripe, and XSellco 🇮🇪

To bring things full cycle, it was actually one of my fellow 100minds participants Megan Killion that shared the job spec for Sales Development Representative at Intercom on LinkedIn, the job I eventually secured after college 🙏 This role involves qualifying prospects primarily over live chat and passing them down the funnel to an Account Executive (AE) to close. The majority of my interviews for this role involved discussing what I had done in college but more so what I had done at Uber two years previous.

What is so exciting about working in a fast-growing tech start-up (like Intercom) is the amazing career progression that presents itself so quickly 🚀As mentioned, I started as an SDR in October 2017 and was promoted to AE within 9 months. My day to day now involves working with emerging and start-up businesses, showing them the value of using Intercom, getting them set up on a free trial and ensure they are set up for future success with the platform🤝

With Intercom continuing to grow in Dublin, I have lots of my peers and people a few years behind me in college in my network reaching out to seek guidance, advise and sometimes referrals for a wide range of roles across the company, these include Sales, Marketing and Customer Success functions. As I was very lucky to have this assistance in my latter years of college and post-graduation, I am more than happy to help out. I actually really enjoy taking these calls and meeting with different people, learning about their background (education & work experience) and providing help where I can 🤓.

I noticed over the last number of months that the areas these people commonly seek help with are — objective CV feedback, what to include in a cover letter, interview prep and sometimes an internal referral. This, in fact, has been the premise for setting up Gradguide. I along with three friends started this project as of six or so weeks ago and are the initial mentors/guides on the site ✌️.

This post is a brief, (not very well structured), synopsis of how I landed my first job in tech after college and particularly how I benefitted greatly from having a mentor to guide me through the many stepping stones along the way 👣 I even still stay in contact with him to this day. For example, recently I was in London for work and visited Cian who is now the Head of Growth at Fat Llama (Intercom customers) at their Shoreditch HQ for a catch-up ☕️.

I am a strong believer that as a student or recent graduate you will get a lot more value from being paired with a like-minded person who took a similar path to you but perhaps a step or two ahead of you on the career ladder (as they are a few years older), rather than seeking advice from college councilors or your parents who made this decision a long time ago in a very different jobs environment. If you agree and you too are seeking career guidance or mentorship please reach out and request early access to the Gradguide program here 🎓


Mark from Gradguide

Online career guidance & mentorship program transitioning students from college to their first job in tech 👩‍💻

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