Advice for grads: As you move into working world, be on lookout for a mentor

Commencement season is here.

Across the country, students are graduating from colleges and universities. Each newly minted graduate potentially will be looking for their first full-time job as they begin their professional career. This is so exciting. I’d like to share one tip to support these job seekers and job starters as they step into work life.

First, congratulations and welcome to “adult life,” however you define it. As you watch college life move fully into your rearview mirror, take time to contemplate the transition to working life. I bet you are excited and nervous at the same time. That makes sense. It would be odd if you didn’t feel a mix of emotions.

As you look for work or begin a first job, pay careful attention and watch the more experienced people working around you. Watch what they do and how they behave and take notes regarding what you like and appreciate. Watch to discover who might become a mentor to you. A mentor could be anyone who has more experience or a winning personality you find intriguing or appealing in the professional realm.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the popular show “Hacks,” which features the relationship that develops between an experienced comedian and a young writer assigned to help her freshen and refocus her performances for new audiences. The show is very funny and often surprisingly poignant.

As I watched each episode I kept thinking about how each character serves as a mentor to the other. Their interplay is fascinating. The older woman learns a lot from the younger woman and vice versa. In a way, they mentor each other. Seeing them interact and navigate their working relationship not only resonates with me, but also reminds me that we have a lot to learn from each other if we are open to the possibility.

Throughout my career I enjoyed having professional mentors. An early mentor hired me for my first real job. And that role included incredible training and encouragement that offered insights and lessons I still use today. Another mentor pushed me, at a young age, to learn how to invest a portion of my small, biweekly paycheck, something that has literally paid dividends for decades and I am eternally grateful to her for guiding me to become fiscally savvy.

Another mentor led by example and showed me, and other young professionals in our working group, how to dress for success, how to care for and entertain high net worth stakeholders who were central participants in our organization, and how to use my creativity to ensure the goals we set were not dreams but realistic markers we could attain.

I could go on and on about the mentors who have helped me define my career every step of the way. They took time to teach me things I didn’t even know were important and those lessons are still valuable to me today.

The most important thing for new college graduates is to engage with people and discover the insights that lie within experienced professionals. It’s so easy to lean on digital tools and just wing it in the workplace. I’d caution against that and encourage every new graduate to connect with peers and new professional supervisors and take note of what they are doing.

Don’t be afraid to ask to learn more or even to set aside time over coffee or lunch where you could ask specific career questions. In an age of digital search and AI, it is easy to forget that the more experienced people you might encounter along the way in your work life might make fabulous informal teachers. They may even become your new good friends.

All the best to you as you launch your career.

• Rebecca Hoffman is the founder and principal of Good Egg Concepts, a strategic communication and brand marketing consulting practice serving clients across the Chicago area and nationally.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.