I’m with Oprah, if you come prepared when opportunity knocks, your dreams come true. In college, although working toward a major, I rarely pursued relationships with my professors. Now, more than ever, workplace successes depend on whom you know so networking counts. Some advice:
1) Find mentors – I regularly learn from every interaction. If you know someone whose career path involved your dream job, humbly ask for a research interview to get current advice for training, industry insider information and even important contacts. Don’t “mildly insist” that your mentor meet with you – its a fine line between determination and arrogance. If they only offer an email, take it – the first step is the hardest, but it could lead to other things.
2) Be courteous – Anyone at any level could be the person to give you the spot on your mentor’s radar and hopefully on his calendar. Depending on who they are, they may be asked to share their opinion of you. Don’t take anyone for granted.
3) Be clear – Clarify your interests so the mentor gets a better feel for what information you desire, your current knowledge and how best to help. Don’t expect them to read your mind. You wouldn’t want to waste the opportunity. Come with specific questions.
4) Follow through – Confirm appointments, provide an agenda, know where you’re visiting. Your mentor took time out of their busy day to graciously meet with you, please be respectful of their time. Don’t hit the Snooze button. When this reminder appears on your calendar, do not reschedule it for later. Assume your chance to pose your questions will only come around once.
5) CALL! – In the unique situation where you have to miss or reschedule an appointment – Tell them in advance! Don’t make them track you down.
This advice is common sense, but people forget significant steps! You’ll learn how small your industry is and how many degrees of separation are between you, your mentor and Kevin Bacon when you’ve left a positive or negative vibe with your mentor. Start your career path off on the right foot and arise to each challenge and play on weekends while relaxing after landing your dream job!