My career so far has been great. Well, not always. There was that unfortunate time right after graduation when I ™d just spent 4 ½ years getting my degree, only to discover I had chosen the wrong career. Seriously, a degree in engineering technology? Spending my days determining which size rebar and steel columns to use in structures? What was I thinking? Desperate for work I enjoyed, I enrolled in a graduate program that would allow me to get on the right career path.
It was smooth sailing after that. Well, sort of. Graduating with an MBA, I did land my dream job with a world-class brand. Yet I still had questions about my career, new opportunities and other things.
While I ™ve enjoyed my work and successfully moved up the ranks at different companies, there have been “ and still are – times when I need a shoulder. The opportunity to speak with someone who's been there, done that . Someone who's not related to me that will provide a tough-love dose of career reality every once in a while.
After my rough career start, I decided that if I could ever help someone else navigate their career path and answer the questions that others can't, I would do it. It would be my way of giving back, paying it forward, or whatever you want to call it. There's no sense for others to go through the same thing I did “ launching a career without a guide.
I ™m not sure how or when I became a mentor but it's something I ™m passionate about; something I make time for at the expense of other things. It's so important to me to provide the one thing I wish I had when I was starting out “ an experienced individual to answer my questions and provide an objective opinion as well as helpful suggestions. To provide insight that can only be obtained from having been there, done that .
And I ™m not sure how I get connected with people who need to speak with someone with more career experience. As an official mentor at my alma mater, I get assigned to students. But most of the mentoring relationships happen randomly. Sometimes it's a friend of a friend; other times it's the daughter/niece/nephew of someone I ™ve met. All pretty random.
On a recent visit to my alma mater I met some students in a most unusual place. I had some time to kill before giving my presentation, so I found a bench in a quiet area of the business school and sat down. It just happened to be conveniently located near the restroom.
While sitting there enjoying the feeling of college life, suddenly all the classrooms opened at once and the area was full of graduate students, apparently on a break from a long class. I was observing them and of course they noticed me, all dressed up and clearly not a student. At some point a group of them caught my eye. We engaged in a brief conversation about what they were studying, what they wanted to do when they graduated and where I worked. I offered to connect with them on LinkedIn and passed out my business card, telling them to reference that we met near the restroom at the business school “ that would trigger anyone's memory, for sure.
And guess what? I ™ve heard from all of the students. We ™ve scheduled phone meetings and conversed via email. They ask all kinds of questions; some I expect and some that are new. The biggest thing is that they are taking advantage of a chance meeting to speak with someone who's been there, done that .
We never know when or where we may meet someone who could help us with our career. In fact, I wonder how many missed opportunities I passed by? Was there someone sitting near the restroom when I was in school?
Same thing holds true for me now, even though I ™ve got experience under my belt. I always try to be aware of opportunities to meet someone new. It could be at a networking event, or through colleagues and friends, or even at the gym. Maybe I could help them or they could help me, or maybe it's just a one-time quick conversation. You never know.
Rebar and steel columns? Still makes me shudder. If only I ™d been able to talk to someone who had been there, done that .
© Tami Cannizzaro 2012 All Rights Reserved