Monday, February 23, 2015

3 Things to Consider When Seeking a Mentor

By Nicolette Johnson
Associate Director of
Graduate Career Services
By Nicolette Johnson

If you're starting your journey into a new career or joining a new organization, you’ll likely think about finding a mentor. Here are three things to consider in your search:

1. Don’t rush. 

Stop and take a breath. Mentors can offer helpful advice and career know-how, but there’s no need to rush to find a mentor. Instead, seek advice from a variety of people and let those mentoring relationships grow on their own.

Taking it slow will also give you time to understand the organization and who the best potential mentor matches may be. Then, once you’ve found someone you admire and connect with, you can, as necessary, build the relationship into a more formal mentoring relationship.

2. Know the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.  

A mentor gives you career advice, shares lessons they've learned, provides feedback, and serves as a sounding board for your ideas. A sponsor is often a high level person who champions you and helps open doors for you. Ideally, you want both.

During my career, I’ve had mentors who gave great advice, and I've had sponsors from whom I got little advice and in some cases didn’t know very well. They gave me visibility, like inviting me on the corporate jet to get to know other executives, and ultimately they helped me get promotions.

Like mentoring, sponsorship can grow organically, too. To catch the eye of a sponsor, be sure to perform well, take on visible assignments (and yes—sometimes the ones no one else wants), and align yourself with people who both like you and have a sponsor’s ear.

3. Be sure to offer something. 

Like any relationship, you will need to provide some give and take. Be sure that you provide those with whom you have mentoring or sponsoring relationships with something of value.

You can give them useful information, articles, or even ground-level word-on-the-street insight.

Most importantly, make sure you perform well. The last thing a sponsor or mentor wants is to endorse you and you perform badly. He or she will view that as a bad reflection on them, likely distancing themselves from you, at best, as a result.

Nicolette Johnson is the Associate Director of Graduate Career Services at the Kelley School of Business. Nicolette and her team meet and coach hundreds of students, alumni, and corporate partners on tried and true recruiting methods, interviewing tactics, and career management strategies, while staying in tune to how these areas are changing and evolving. Email Nicolette at

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Show employers some love: Emphasize what you will give, not what you will get

By Suzanne Stuebe, Associate Director of
Graduate Career Services
Any employer will want to understand how you meet the company’s needs before taking you into consideration. To quote former President Kennedy: Ask not what an employer can do for you—ask what you can do for an employer.

The things employers really want to know about you are:

Why do you want this job?  Do you understand the company and its purpose?  Are you excited about the mission?

Research the company, write down your thoughts, and rehearse them as part of your script. Think of at least two or three reasons this job is a good match for your skills, strengths, experience and background. What can you bring to the company?

Your answer should reflect that you have thought about what you want and have researched the company. The employer does not care if you want to advance your career, make money, or get better benefits. Do not make the answer all about you. They want to know what you are going to do for them. Let them know you are the solution to their problem. Focus on explaining how your skills and abilities will do the best job of making their work lives easier.

Why are you qualified to do the job?  Do you have the necessary hard skills for the position?  Do you have the key soft skills, such as the ability to work well in teams?  

Carefully analyze the job posting to analyze what competencies are required for the position. Make sure you have stories and examples that demonstrate how you have shown these kinds of actions in your current or past roles. Be prepared with plenty of examples that can convince any interviewer that you have "the right stuff."

Are you the right “fit”?

As you prepare for your interview, think about what kinds of qualities and personalities are right for the job. Different jobs require different behavior patterns. Fit is a subjective measure that takes into account your abilities, as well as innate qualities such as sense of humor, capacity to learn quickly, maturity, and confidence.  It's a combination of how the interviewer feels about you and whether you seem like someone who will fit in well and complement the rest of the team.

Suzanne Stuebe is the Associate Director of Graduate Career Services at the Kelley School of Business. Suzanne and her team meet and coach hundreds of students, alumni, and corporate partners on tried and true recruiting methods, interviewing tactics, and career management strategies, while staying in tune to how these areas are changing and evolving. Email Suzanne at

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to help a classmate with their off-campus job search

Kendell Brown
Associate Director of Professional
Development in Graduate Career Services
You are thrilled you got the offer you’d been gunning for, but you look around and see a friend frustrated because she missed out on not just her top choice, but also her B-tier and C-tier options.

She has to start the dreaded off campus search.

How can you help?

It’s acceptable to do some commiserating, but that really doesn’t help your friend land something. Here are some ideas that will really help.

Regular check ins: As you know, looking for a job can be exhausting. The reality is that it’s not any easier when the search moves off campus. One of the best things you can do is regularly check in with a friend and see how things are going. It will show your friend that you care, but even more importantly, it will work to ensure that the off-campus search is maintaining momentum. The jobs are out there, but they don’t come knocking on anyone’s door. Weekly chats with your classmate will remind her that she needs to keep this a priority.

Help your friend define what she wants: Sometimes when someone starts doing an off campus search, target companies and contacts may not be that familiar with MBA’s and what we mean when we say "financial analyst," "marketing strategy," etc.  All the person at the other end of the email/phone call hears is “I want a high paying job doing blah, blah, blah." Help a friend think through what they really want to do and then help them come up with a concise way to say it.  “I’m looking for a strategic assignment that allows me to work with divisional and/or corporate leadership to identify, analyze and execute key growth initiatives designed to drive value for an organization.”