In today’s job market: Find a mentor, not a boss.

Where would we be without those in our lives that have offered support, guidance and nurtured our growth and development? Where do we end up when it stops? Having a mentor or even multiple mentors in my life has always been a priority. Even in grade school I found myself connecting with teachers and adults who took interest in me personally more so than any particular subject. My highest academic achievements and areas of greatest passion/joy were always linked to my favorite teacher, bar none. In seventh grade–math, eighth–English, and art all through high school. I believe that’s what ultimately lead me to my chosen career as a designer.

However, when I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Design in 2009, my professors apprised me and my peers of the status of the current marketplace. Maybe we already knew, but they wanted to be certain we had a sense of realism upon graduating. Unfortunately, that meant we were oftentimes left with sentiments that were less that bolstering. “This is the worst time for you to graduate. There are no jobs for you,” I was told. One interviewer even said to me “You can thank your parents for having you when they did,” and “Why would I hire you when I could hire someone with twice your experience for the same price?” I wasn’t disheartened, I was offended. Offended that industry professionals could talk to me in a such a way, to make me feel like the last four years of my hard work didn’t amount to much. Where did this leave me? To convince me that getting a job wasn’t based on qualifications but acceptance of the current state of affairs. That accepting a low pay position that wasn’t a fair industry rate was just how it was going to be. I had one professor tell me to accept a high-stress design job that paid $10/hr. I was not accepting that as an option. While not having a job also was not an option, neither was lowering my standards for myself.

I needed a mentor. Fortunately, in my first industry job, that’s exactly what I found. While I wasn’t working for a company that was particularly impressive on my resume, I had a full-time position in my field. I was working hard and I went to work every day happy to be working with someone that appreciated both me and my skillset. It was the appreciation of me though, that set me on the right track for my career. I did not lose faith or hope in the industry and eventually found the courage to catapult myself into jobs where I would continued to be challenged and reach my potential.

Since then, while it has never been easy, I have turned down many jobs that did not afford opportunity, my current value or were composed of people who did not value me as a person. This last one by far was the hardest of them all. While college and career are our learned links to success it is on us to truly know our worth and remember that neither defines who we are as a person. Our true worth comes from how we treat others and how we treat ourselves. Period. The golden rule always prevails.

Eight years post-grad and Master’s degree in tow, I have found that the career landscape for my generation is one where ability meets agility and where mentorship is key. While success in the past may have been linked to longevity, the success of the modern market is the ability to make uncertain moves. We live in a time where we can no longer anticipate keeping what has been created for us, but rather continue to understand what we can create. We focus less on where a company can lead us and rather how the jobs we choose will ultimately develop our own definition of a career path. We think differently about careers because our careers are different. We will know less people who have spent 20+ years with the same company. And our bosses will impact our careers less than our mentors.

Navigating the job market is something we must continue to do with agility and grace despite the uncertainties of where our profession will lead us and those roadblocks we may face along the way. Mentorship is not built into our lives, so we have to prioritize it enough to build it in ourselves.

So a bit of advice as you move confidently and courageously through your career.

  1. Find a mentor, not a boss. (And it’s ok to have more than one!)
  2. Your job can be a stepping stone, it doesn’t have to be your final destination.
  3. Learn from your mistakes. Each is an opportunity to learn more about who you are and what you want.
  4. Never let a boss (or anyone else) crush your spirit.
  5. Attitude is everything. You will find a positive outlook can change even the hardest of circumstances.
  6. Keep moving forward.
  7. Explore new ideas.
  8. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.
  9. Never stop learning.
  10. Work towards pursuing your passions and allowing yourself to live a life that above all else makes you happy.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn:

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