“Find a good mentor.” That was the advice given by Case McGee, vice president of human resources for North America and global compensation at agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. McGee, a 1998 MU graduate who also earned his MBA at Millikin, offered these four words as one of five tips he termed vital to career success during his commencement address to the 2012 PACE/MBA graduates in May (see complete list, lower right).
Why is mentoring an important part of a successful career plan?
“It has been proven time and time again that employees are more likely to succeed when they have a mentor,” McGee told the graduates. “The right mentor can literally change your life. Mentors can provide friendship, encouragement, coaching, advocacy, inspiration and serve as a role model to show you how to achieve your hopes and dreams.”
At its best, mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship with a mentor who is more experienced and typically older than the person being mentored.
Although face-to-face meetings make up the traditional mentoring model, technology now makes it possible to connect through email, texting or video calling, expanding the possibilities for connecting mentors and mentees. Experts can also share advice and resources via social media with a community of followers, blurring the boundaries of the traditional mentor/mentee relationship. This instant access and advice can be very helpful, but don’t overlook the value of relationships built one-on-one with a mentor, either in-person or digitally.
“It will be the start of a relationship you will cherish forever,” McGee said. “I’ve been fortunate over my career to have found mentors along the way who saw the potential in me and pushed me beyond even my own expectations. [But mentors] don’t fall into your lap … we often have to seek them out.”
How can a mentor help?
- Are you exploring career options and need to gather career information?
- Are you seeking experiential learning opportunities such as internships, part-time jobs or volunteer positions?
- Do you have a specific career goal in mind?
- Do you want assistance in the transition from college to the workplace?
- Are you looking to build your professional network?
- Are you a young professional considering a change in career paths or wanting to move up the corporate ladder?
- Are you seeking opportunities to advance your career but unclear about how to go about it?
All these and more can be great reasons to have a mentor.
“A true mentor keeps you in check [and] is looking out for your best interests,” McGee said. “A true mentor is someone who can offer valuable advice from experience but is not afraid to give you constructive feedback along the way.”
If you are interested in having a mentor, you should first identify the questions you need answered and what you want from this relationship.
Why should you be a mentor?
Being a mentor can be a great hands-on way to build your own leadership, communication and coaching skills. As a mentor, you have an opportunity to facilitate personal and professional growth by sharing your wisdom and things you wish you had known as a student or young professional. You can be a representative for your career field or degree/major, as well as your company or industry. Mentoring can also be a great way to gain access to an emerging talent pool of young professionals and soon-to-be professionals, as well as for learning valuable insights into a younger generation. Additionally, imagine how gratifying it would be to ignite a young person’s passion for a particular career path.
How can I become a mentor or find one?
This summer, Millikin’s Alumni Office and Career Center are launching Career Connections Network, a resource designed to connect MU students and alumni for career mentoring purposes in a secure online environment. Alumni volunteers select the types of mentor activities with which they wish to assist, such as participating in informational interviews, mock interviews, job shadowing, job leads and networking.
Mentors may opt to list an email address in their profile so students can email them with questions, then the mentor can begin a dialogue and decide to meet with the student face-to-face or virtually. Mentoring through this network provides a great way for alumni to help future graduates prepare for their careers and assist fellow alumni who may want to re-engineer their own career paths.