Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hard Work, Luck and a Great Mentor = the Perfect Recipe for Success

Annette Baxter from the Careers Service explains the difference a good mentor can make. She draws on the examples of elite athletes, and the support teams that guide them towards their success, illustrating the importance of developing a network for achieving your goals. Annette also highlights mentoring schemes engineering students can access.

Ask most successful people what it was that helped them to achieve success in their careers, and many will mention a lot of hard work, some will say a modicum of luck but most will also refer to the help and support they received from a significant person who pointed them in the right direction or gave them the time, encouragement and support to achieve their goals. Some would call this inspirational person a friend, a parent, a teacher or a manager but the common term in industry is often a mentor.

A mentor can share the benefits of their experience and insights in industry, a company or job role; they can give you advice and tips on the recruitment process and help you face job search and progression with greater confidence. They may also help you to assess your current skills, identify gaps in your skill or knowledge base and then help you to identify strategies for meeting these development needs.

"Remember the old phrase ‘it’s not just what you know, but who you know’ that can make the difference."

No one can ever tell you what to do, but people often say that discussing a situation with another objective person can help them to see different perspectives, generate other ideas, find alternative ways of overcoming obstacles or handling situations and therefore make better decisions – benefiting from the experience (and mistakes) of someone else who may have been in that situation before.

Whatever you want to achieve, your role as mentee is to define the goals you want to achieve and a mentor may be able to help you to identify the steps you need to take to achieve them, offering feedback and encouragement along the way.

When you look at any successful athlete or sportsperson like Andy Murray or our very own Jessica Ennis, they are surrounded by a team of people to help them reach peak performance and achieve the accolade in their event. They may have a coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist just to name a few and just as in sports, you may want to build a team around you to improve your career fitness and support you to achieve success in your career.

In the careers sense ‘your team’ may include an academic or project supervisor, a Careers Adviser, family members but it can also include a career mentor (or all of them), each able to offer you advice and support to help you achieve your career goals.

You don’t have to wait until you get into employment to have a mentor, you can start to build your network now by contacting the Careers Service and speaking to a careers adviser. You may want to join the Email Mentoring Scheme offered by the Careers Service, and mentoring schemes are also offered by professional bodies such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) who offer mentoring to engineering students.

If you want to widen your professional network wider, professional bodies such as Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) also have opportunities for students to meet with society members and build their professional network. Social media sites such as LinkedIn can also be invaluable to help you develop your professional networks but who knows, this may be the topic of a future blog on this site!

Remember the old phrase ‘it’s not just what you know, but who you know’ that can make the difference. Start today by building your network and finding your mentor for success.

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