In episode 63 of the Graduate Job Podcast I explore why you, yes you dear listener should get a mentor to help you as you look for a graduate job. We explore what exactly a mentor is and what they do. We discuss why they are so useful in helping you look for a graduate job, top tips for how you can find a mentor, and what exactly to say to them when you ask so that they say yes. We also delve into brilliant advice on how to set the relationship up at the beginning so that you both get something out of it. Now, if you’re listening to this thinking a mentor sounds a bit pretentious or too much like hard work, I can understand where you’re coming from, and after university I would have agreed, but…..stick with it, have a listen, because if you follow the advice in this episode and get a mentor, I guarantee it will improve your employability….guarantee it, or your money back…on this free podcast. As always, all links to everything we discuss today with links and full transcripts are available right this very moment in the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/mentoring. Before we start a quick request from me, your feedback helps me to create the episodes you want to hear, so I’ve set up a super simple and very quick survey, as I want the show to best serve your needs. It’s got 5 questions and will take you a minute, so please check it out at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/survey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. But in the meantime, let’s crack on with the show.
MORE SPECIFICALLY IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- What exactly a mentor is and what they do
- Why they are so useful in helping you look for a graduate job
- Top tips for how you can find a mentor
- The secret of what exactly to say to a mentor when you ask so that they say yes
- Brilliant advice on how to set the relationship up at the beginning so that you both get something out of it
- The inside track of how to be a good mentee
- Why having a career mentor could set you up for graduate job success
SELECTED LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- How to get a graduate job in PR with Sarah Stimson – Sarah’s first appearance on the show
- How to get a job in PR – Sarah’s excellent book
- Taylor Bennet Foundation – The charity where Sarah is CEO. Check out their brilliant schemes!
- Sarah on Twitter – Say hello
- Bright Side Trust Mentoring Scheme
- Career Ready mentoring scheme
- Canva – The free graphic design tool
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Sarah’s brilliant book recommendation. Click on the link below to buy now from Amazon!
Episode 63 – Why you should get a job search mentor, with Sarah Stimson
Announcer: Welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, your home for weekly information and inspiration to help you get the graduate job of your dreams.
James: Hello and welcome to the Graduate Job Podcast, with your host James Curran. The Graduate Job Podcast is your weekly home for all things related to helping you on your journey to finding that amazing job. Each week I bring together the best minds in the industry, speaking to leading authors, entrepreneurs, coaches and bloggers who bring decades of experience into a byte size weekly 30 minute show. Put simply, this is the show I wish I had a decade ago when I graduated. And a very warm welcome to you for episode 63 of the Graduate Job Podcast. It’s a special episode on a topic I wish I had thought about when I was looking for a graduate job, as it is advice which would have really helped me. This week I’m re-joined by Sarah Stimson, who first appeared on the show in episode 7 when we discussed the topic of how to get a graduate job in PR. Today though we explore why you, yes you dear listener should get a mentor to help you as you look for a graduate job. We explore what exactly a mentor is and what they do. We discuss why they are so useful in helping you look for a graduate job, top tips for how you can find a mentor, and what exactly to say to them when you ask so that they say yes. We also delve into brilliant advice on how to set the relationship up at the beginning so that you both get something out of it. Now, if you’re listening to this thinking a mentor sounds a bit pretentious or too much like hard work, I can understand where you’re coming from, and after university I would have agreed, but…..stick with it, have a listen, because if you follow the advice in this episode and get a mentor, I guarantee it will improve your employability….guarantee it, or your money back…on this free podcast. As always all links to everything we discuss and a full transcript which has been kindly typed up by Annabelle can be found over at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/mentoring. Do head on to the website as you can find links to all of the other 62 shows which cover everything from assessment centres, job interviews, how to negotiate a raise, how to get jobs with law firms, tech start ups, you name it, we have it. A cornucopia of brilliant graduate job advice, and it is all free. So go to www.graduatejobpodcast.com and fill your boots.
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James: I’m very pleased to welcome back to the show today Chief Executive at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, editor at PRcareers.co.uk, author of the excellent ‘How to get a job in PR’ and star of episode seven of the Graduate Job Podcast, a very warm welcome to Sarah Stimson.
Sarah: Hello James, nice to see you again, or rather hear you again.
James: Sarah, can you believe it’s been more than two and half years since we recorded that first episode?
Sarah: I know! I’ve had a whole new baby since then, I’ve moved on.
James: Ah, congratulations! And a promotion as well to Chief Executive
James: I’m sure we’ll touch upon that as we go through the show and for listeners who haven’t heard your appearance on episode seven ‘How to get a graduate job in PR’ would you like to introduce yourself and what it is that you do?
Sarah: So I run a small charity called the Taylor Bennett Foundation which is focused on improving diversity in the public relations industry and specially we do that by offering trainee and internship programmes to black and ethnic minority graduates and at the end of last year we also launched a mentoring programme which is why we are talking about mentoring today. But it’s been incredibly successful, so 83% of our alumni now work in PR. Companies and organisations that supported us from 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace all the way through to big PR agencies and small boutique companies so it’s been enormously successful.
James: So in the show notes over at Graduatejobpodcast.com/mentoring we’ll be linking to everything we discuss today including the Taylor Bennett Foundation so you can check it out for yourself and see the great work they do there. With the Taylor Bennett Foundation, how many people are you taking on each year now?
Sarah: On the trainee internship programmes we only take in between 18-24 a year, so it’s a very elite group. But with the mentoring programme we don’t have a limit. We launched in January and so far we have 45 graduates with mentors and our aim is to reach 100 by the end of this year.
James: Excellent, so listeners this is a perfect opportunity to find out more about this scheme and about mentoring and as I mentioned if you want to listen to our first episode on ‘How to get a graduate job in PR’ check out the show notes and we will be linking to that episode there. So as I mentioned, today Sarah, we are going to be talking about mentoring and why it can be so important in getting a graduate job. So starting at the beginning, what is a mentor and what do they do?
Sarah: So a mentor is a person who can help guide you through career choices and through your application process if you are a graduate. So lots of people who are already established in careers have mentors and they might be looking at how they can progress in their career or make a step into their next job but actually mentors can be really helpful for people right at the very beginning of their careers and might be thinking about what they want to do next and how they want to get there. So it may be somebody who can give you their own lived experience about that particular career you want to move into or somebody people who are willing to open up their list of contacts and give you networks to people you might otherwise not have access to and somebody who is quite happy to be a sounding board; so if you have a job application you don’t know how to go about it or if you have an interview coming up and you’re a bit nervous, it is someone who can offer you experience or guidance about how to go about these few things
James: So what’s the difference between a mentor and a coach?
Sarah: Typically a coach would be someone you pay, that would be the biggest difference there. So I have an executive coach and so coaches tend to work at a more senior level and a coach doesn’t necessarily have to be in the career you are working in. So with me, for example, I have been looking at my leadership style and trying to improve myself as a leader so that doesn’t have to be somebody who has worked in the charity sector or the PR sector but somebody who understands leadership, so that’s mainly the biggest difference between coaches and mentors. Mentors tend to be unpaid, they tend to be volunteers and they’ll be specifically looking at a type of industry, that’s how mentors work best. So rather than having someone you’ve just plucked out the sky it’s somebody who has the kind of experience you want yourself to help guide you through your own career.
James: So listeners might be thinking their only experience of a mentor is on the X Factor when they get assigned a mentor. Why is it important at the early stages in your career to have someone who can help guide you?
Sarah: I think what mentors offer, as opposed to not having one, is they can give you the value of their experience and that’s true of X Factor too. If you look at the mentors on X Factor then they offer their experience so if you look at Sharon Osborne then she talks about what it’s like behind the scenes of a big band because that’s what she did with her husband and Simon Cowell will talk about his knowledge as a record producer because that’s what he’s done. So it’s using your own experience to help the other people in front of you. So at the beginning of your career you can take the experience of people before you and use that to your advantage, you can learn from their mistakes, learn from their experiences without having to do them yourself and that’s a really powerful thing.
James: Definitely because everyone makes mistakes as they go through their careers so if you can learn from other people, learn the shortcuts, learn the advice they wish they’d had at your age, then you can move ahead and make a difference.
Sarah: That’s actually quite a motivating factor for the mentors themselves as they want to help people not make the mistakes that they did.
James: In researching for the show today, I found an academic study that says that people with mentors earn higher salaries, are promoted more frequently, and report higher job satisfaction than people who don’t. So I’ll link to that study in the show notes but there are a few good reasons to get a mentor.
Sarah: Definitely, yeah.
James: So in terms of what they will do for you, what will a mentor do and what wont a mentor do, where does the line blur?
Sarah: It depends on the programme you join. So if you join a specific programme where its laid out with rules and regulations, a bit like the one we run at the foundation, then there will be a clear guidance for what mentors will be able to offer you and then you stick within that guidance. But more and more people are finding mentors on their own and then it’s down to you and the mentor to lay down rules and that relationship and how you are going to operate. So for us at the foundation the rules are that the mentors and the mentees must meet at least three times face to face in the space of three months and the rest of the time they spend on the phone and email and we give the mentors guidance on how to help their mentees; so it’s things like in week one you might want to talk about broad career choices and then in week two you might want to narrow that down to a specific discipline they want to work in and by the time you get to month two you get down to how they can use the experience they have had so far to write a brilliant CV. By the end of the relationship, or the end of the mentoring period you would hope they’d be at the stage where they are applying for jobs and getting interviews and the mentors are helping them settle in to the first few weeks of their new roles. Some mentors go on to be longer mentors than the three to six months we set out and they keep those relationships because they’ve built a friendship and a bond with these mentees. So it really does depend if you are going through it on an established programme or finding a mentor yourself.
James: So breaking down the two groups you mentioned into the established programmes and finding one yourself, maybe let’s take the established programme first. I wasn’t that aware that there are that many established programmes out there to find mentors. So the Taylor Bennett Foundation is one, where else would people find them?
Sarah: So my experience has always been within the media and PR industry so that’s where I know most about mentoring but the Media Trust offer a mentoring programme and so do some individual companies. So you might find if you go to the big four like Ernst & Young, KPMG, places like that will have mentoring programmes in place. Some places only offer mentoring for their own staff so it might be a senior member mentors a more junior mentor of staff or some places might offer external monitoring so The Brightside Trust is another organisation that is exclusively for mentoring and others like the Career Ready offer mentoring but for more people in school rather than university. So there are programmes out there, but you’re right they are few are far between.
James: Thinking specifically about your mentoring programme, is it just for people looking to get into PR?
Sarah: Yes, so our programme is specifically for ethnic minorities and the people that are eligible to apply must be either a graduate or a final year student at university and they must be looking to get into the PR and communications industry. So it is incredibly niche, very specific but even so we have lots of people apply and we are constantly looking for new mentors. We were very lucky to have a good response to a recent press campaign were we asked for more people to step up and volunteer and actually people are very willing to help others into the industry and so are happy to give their experience to those graduates.
James: Ah brilliant. Sticking with the programme, you mentioned you are getting more applications than you have places for, what’s the process you go to, to whittle down the people who are successful?
Sarah: So there are two ways to get onto our mentoring programme. Either you can just apply through our website and there is an application form you can fill in which asks you about your own experience and then it asks you about your knowledge of PR and the area of PR you are particularly interested in, which makes it easier for us to match those people with a mentor. From that there will be a telephone interview with our mentoring manager who will then decide whether or not we think you are suitable to be mentored by someone and the other way to apply is when we run our traineeship programme four times a year, we run an assessment day for that programme and for the candidates who don’t make it through to the trainee programme will quite often be offered a mentor, so although you didn’t get a place on our trainee programme we think with a mentor you would be really successful and we give that as an option and quite a lot of graduates are taking that as an option.
James: I’d advise any listeners to take a listen to the first episode, episode seven that we did which goes into more detail specifically around the Taylor Bennett Foundation programme and the schemes there and how brilliant it is there. So moving on to the other way of finding a mentor the less structured route, how would you recommend people go about finding a mentor in their own field?
Sarah: I think the biggest misconception about mentors is that it has to be someone very senior so it can be seen as very intimidating approaching the CEO or the MD of a company but actually some of the best mentors we’ve had, have only been two or three years into their careers so they are not that far ahead of where graduates may be themselves and because they have recent experience of what it’s like to find a job and start in a new profession. So my advice really would be to try and find people in the industry that you’re interested in who are a few steps ahead of you who are happy to give you advice and their time, and actually because they are approached less than senior people, so you might find them easier and more open to give you their time. So your best bet is to look at companies who you really want to work for and look at who their employees are and email them directly and say I’d be really grateful for your time and I’d really like to meet you three times over the next three months and pick your brains on something. The other alternative is to go straight to social media and look for people who are active on social media who you can engage with there and then ask them directly if they’d be happy to offer you some mentoring time.
James: That’s great advice and websites such as LinkedIn are great tools in finding alumni from your university who might work in the firms you’re interested in and going in that route as you already have that connection and finding people who work with your desired companies and making contact with them there.
James: With the initial contact, would you suggest people say explicitly that they are looking for a mentor as opposed to I’m looking for some help and being as structured as you mentioned of saying ‘I want to meet three times over the next three months’ or trying to keep it more general so as to not scare people off?
Sarah: I think actually that being quite specific for what you are asking for is helpful. I know I get lots of emails from people asking me for help and advice and that’s fine but I appreciate it when people lay it out and say I know mentoring takes a lot of time but I wouldn’t like to take up lots of your time, maybe an email once a month or a phone call once a month and we can structure it as a mentor relationship by which this is what I’d expect you to get out of it and this is what I’d get out of it. I think that would be really helpful for the person at the other end as they’d know what they were letting themselves in for.
James: That’s a really good way of putting it. Hadn’t thought of it like that. Spinning it around then, as a mentor yourself, what do you get out of the relationship?
Sarah: It’s incredibly interesting the mentors we have had, have found that it helps them reflect back on their own careers and what they have achieved, how they have got their and what they want to do next. So it’s really good to take stock of where they are in their careers. It also helps them to really think about how to help the next generation of people, so whether that’s people in their own team or people they may be employing and how they can improve their team management and leadership skills, improves their communication skills as it looks at how do you communicate with somebody who has absolutely no experience at all as it’s so different from how you communicate with your day to day colleagues. It provides the opportunity to simply give back to somebody, whether that means to help somebody else which is quite unquantifiable but that feeling of having gave back some time to somebody else who is really early on in their career is actually really rewarding.
James: Yeah I agree, it’s a warm fuzzy feeling when I get emails back from listeners who have benefitted from the podcast, or have found it useful or it’s helped them with specific aspects and have gone on to get a job and it makes it all worthwhile when you do. With the people you mentor then, what does a good mentee look like? What is the difference between the people who really get something out it and those you think this isn’t working?
Sarah: Yeah, the best mentees are those that take the responsibility for the relationship. So mentors typically will already be employed somewhere so will be quite busy people and so it really relies on the mentee to keep that relationship going by really making sure they are signposting and reaching certain points in their relationship. This might be by saying at the beginning of the relationship, by the end of the first month I would really love to have a new CV and so it gives both the mentor and the mentee something to work towards. In our experience the worst mentees are the ones who drop off the face of the planet and then the mentors call up saying ‘I really want to help this person but I never hear from them and I don’t know who to get hold of them’. So that can be a real downfall when it comes to mentor relationships. So the best mentees have some sort of idea of what they want to get out of it by the end of it and they work towards that goal.
James: Have you had a mentor yourself who has helped you?
Sarah: I haven’t had an official mentor myself, maybe I should get one actually. I do have a coach, I employed a coach a couple of months ago as I wanted to look at specific things in my career. I have had unofficial mentors, a couple of people I have worked for and a couple of people I worked with in the past who I still see quite regularly, we go for coffee or go for lunch or something and I use them as a sounding board for ideas so if I’m making a new career move or if I’m launching a new project or something then I go to them and say ‘is this a crazy idea?’ ‘have I thought this through properly?’ and sometimes they’ll bounce things back at me. There wasn’t any such thing as a mentor when I was a grad, a long time ago, 25 years ago, and they are relatively new inventions, like internships.
James: I wish I’d had a mentor when I was looking for a graduate job, it would have made it a lot easier just having that guidance to show you the path of where you might want to go.
Sarah: Yes, I wish I’d had one. It would have made life a lot easier.
James: So thinking from a mentees perspective, how do you know if you’ve got a good mentor? What are the characteristics they should be demonstrating in their work?
Sarah: The best mentors are the people who are really open to sharing their own experience so talking about the mistakes that they’ve made as well as talking about the successes they’ve had; because it’s all very good saying ‘I’m very good at my job and I worked very hard and now I’ve gotten up to being director level’ but if you don’t talk about your mistakes then the people that are being mentored are going to think ‘I’m never going to live up to this…how do I beat that?’ So it’s really important that you’re open going into it and it’s really important to be a good listener. The best mentors are the people that let the mentees do some reflection and think about how they are going to get to where they want to be and the really successful mentor relationships we have had are the mentors that have opened up their networks to the mentees. It might be someone who needs some work experience and they can say ‘I have a friend who works over in Saatchi and Saatchi’ and can get their foot in the door to help them get some work experience.
James: What sort of feedback have you had from people who have gone through your programme?
Sarah: It’s been incredibly successful from both sides, the mentors and the mentees. The mentors have talked about how rewarding it feels to have helped make a difference in somebody’s life and that they have learnt a lot about themselves during the process. The mentees have talked about access into the industry that they wouldn’t have had before and helpful advice and guidance and helping them think about things that they may have not thought about before so it may be really simple things like what to wear to an interview for example and they could go to their mentor and say ‘I have an interview here, should I wear a suit?’ and they’d say ‘absolutely not, everyone there wears jeans, a t-shirt, and converse, don’t turn up in a suit, you’ll never fit in.’ So it’s been really rewarding watching those people change over the course of their mentoring and then going off and getting jobs.
James: And it’s just a three month programme?
Sarah: Yes, ours is only three months and that’s because we don’t want it to be too onerous on the mentors so that they don’t feel like it’s a massive commitment but actually as I said quite a lot of them have gone on to remain mentors to those people beyond the formal programme because they’ve brought that relationship with them.
James: I guess it’s almost a dating relationship, in that how do you draw it to a close or if one party wants to continue it but the other one doesn’t. So how many people have continued it after the three months?
Sarah: I’d have to ask my mentoring managed but I’d suspect around half.
James: That’s really good.
Sarah: Three months isn’t actually a long time and you can get the basics done and we send the mentors a list of things we expect them to achieve in those three months and most of them do that but then once you start a job you need a whole new level of advice on how to navigate the whole working experience, so lots of people have remained friends and remained mentors through that.
James: Would you suggest its almost horses for causes and so you have one mentor to help you get the job and then another at the firm you’re at or do you see the benefit of having one person for the entire time or is it good to mix and match?
Sarah: I think it depends on the person. So for some people they’ll keep their mentors for their entire career and that person will stay a couple of paces ahead of them. Other people might leapfrog their mentor at some point and end up becoming more senior than them and end up becoming the employer rather than the employee; so that could be an interesting relationship.
James: Yes, that’s when you know your advice is really good when they leapfrog ahead of you.
Sarah: I have a lot of trainees who earn a lot more than I do so they’ve gone on to be very successful. For some people they use a mentor at the very beginning of the career and then actually once they get to work they tend to use their line managers as their guidance so they tend to have an external mentor until they get more senior and then they might look for a coach of some sort. So it really does just depend on the person.
James: What final advice would you give someone who is in two minds about getting a mentor?
Sarah: My advice is you’ve nothing to lose by trying it. So you can establish a relationship whereby you say let’s give it a go and see how it goes. If it doesn’t workout for one side or the other then there is no pressure to continue that relationship. So you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying mentoring.
James: That completely true and if you don’t ask then you don’t get. It’s well worth asking because if you can get to the interview and if you are able to talk about your experience of that company or your knowledge of the industry because of your mentor then it’s only going to stand you in good stead and it shows initiative of going out and getting a mentor then it’s going to put you ahead of everyone else they will be interviewing.
Sarah: Quite right.
James: Time unfortunately Sarah is running away with us so moving on to a couple of quick fire questions that we ask in each episode. So I have your previous answers from when you were last on the show so we’ll see if you have some different book recommendations. So the first question, what book do you recommend our listeners should read to help with their job search?
Sarah: So I am going to recommend a book which is a little left field but it’s not specifically related to job hunting or mentoring actually but I read it fairly recently and it made me think a lot about career progression and that book is called ‘Outliers’ by Malcom Gladwell.
James: Ah good book.
Sarah: Yeah, great book. It talks a lot about how success happens. About how some of it is luck and how we make some success and how some success is based on what environment you come from. It really made me think about some people are incredibly successful and why some people are not so successful but I’d really recommend everyone reads it as it really makes you think about career progression.
James: Brilliant recommendation and listeners you’ll be able to find the link to that book over on the show notes at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/mentoring. Next question then Sarah, what internet resource would you point our listeners to?
Sarah: For mentoring in particular? The Brightside website is worth looking at in particular as that is a charity that specifically focuses on mentoring for younger people but actually I think all the advice they give is really worth looking at.
James: Brilliant, I’ll have to check that one out myself, sounds a brilliant resource. Finally, what one tip would you give people that they can implement today to help on their job search?
Sarah: My advice would be to create a really quick CV so an infographic or half a page CV that you can send out on social media to people who might be potential mentors because it’s a really good way to catch people’s attention without having to send reams of information.
James: Wow, that’s a new one but I absolutely love it. It’s a brilliant idea. I can really see that being useful if you sent it out and with websites like Fiverr you can get someone to knock it up for you for a very little amount of money.
Sarah: Something like Canva is absolutely free to use and you can do it yourself.
James: Even better. We love a free tool and I will link to that again in the show notes. Sarah it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you back on the show, before we go what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you and the work that you do?
Sarah: The Taylor Bennett Foundation website is a good port of call, so just google us and we will pop up and I’m around on Twitter quite a lot and my handle there is @Gooorooo so if you drop me a message on Twitter then I’m most responsive on there.
James: If you are going to ask for Sarah’s help to be a mentor on there, then make sure you tailor the approach the right way. Make sure you send that infographic across and see if it’s successful. Sarah, thank you so much for appearing on The Graduate Job Podcast.
Sarah: You’re very welcome, thanks for having me.
James: My thanks again to the brilliant Sarah Stimson. If you haven’t already make sure you check out the first episode with her on how to get a job in PR, links in the shownotes with everything else you need to know. www.graduatejobpodcast.com/mentoring. Do make sure you give getting a mentor a go, it might be scary, but….is it scarier than not getting the job of your dreams? What’s the worst that could happen? But when you get one it will really really help your jobsearch, and make you stand out from the thousands, and thosuands, and thosuands of people also applying for that graduate job. If you would prefer more of a coaching relationship then I’m available to help coach you get a graduate job. I only coach at most 3 clients at a time so I can devote my full attention to each of them. But I have spaces available at the moment, so head to my coaching page on the website at www.graduatejobpodcast.com/coaching for more information. Ultimately it’s about what is going to be best suited for you in how you get ahead and get that graduate job. Time for a quick Itune review which comes from ‘Boutridge’ over in Canada who said, 5 stars ‘Great information on positioning yourself for employment’. Short and sweet. Thanks Boutridge for taking the time to leave that review. If you have been enjoying the show, well I guess if you have made it this point at the end that would be you, then head on over to Itunes, or wherever you downloaded/streamed this from and leave me a nice review. Falling that drop me a note at email@example.com and say hello. All that is left to say is I hope you enjoyed the episode today, but more importantly, I hope you use it, and apply it. See you next time.