Making contact with a mentor through the CareerConnect mentor search feature.
Most successful people will say that there have been important individuals who have influenced their career path, provided career advice, or offered support or an experienced perspective throughout their professional lives. These mentors are crucial members of any professional’s support system. Some mentor relationships will develop naturally over the course of your career, but when you’re job hunting for the first time it’s a very good idea to actively seek out a mentor in your field of interest.
The AFB CareerConnect web site originally began as database of visually impaired persons working in a variety of careers who volunteered to provide advice to job seekers. Though over the years AFB CareerConnect has become more then just a place to find mentors, this free matching service remains a unique feature of AFB’s career services. AFB believes that getting advice from mentors helps job seekers succeed.
In the Introduction, you were introduced to the structure of AFB CareerConnect. In this lesson, you will use the mentor search feature on CareerConnect to find people experienced in your field of interest and willing to communicate with you about your job search and career aspirations.
In order to contact mentors through AFB’s safe message system, you must be a registered user of AFB CareerConnect and have your My CareerConnect profile set up. If you haven’t yet registered, please do so before you proceed with the rest of this lesson.
Performing a Mentor Search
After you’ve registered, begin by going to the “For Job Seekers” section of AFB CareerConnect. One of the main features highlighted in this section is “Search for a Mentor.” Select this link to get started.
On the mentor search page you will need to provide a key-word that will tell the system in which career or field you would like your mentor to be involved. For example, the key word “nurse” will return results for mentors who currently work or have worked in nursing. You could also try searching with the word “medical” to find mentors working in fields related to medicine.
If you want to do a more specific search, you can use the “Advanced Mentor Search.” There you will find that you can request that the system find mentors who match criteria in addition to key-words. While you can limit your search to a specific state or province, remember that this is an online mentoring program so your mentor can live anywhere and still provide you with guidance. You may have questions about using a specific technology on the job, or want to contact someone with a similar degree of vision loss. The Advanced Mentor Search lets you request matches for these areas and more.
Search for and send messages to multiple mentors because some may be more responsive than others. It’s also a good idea to search for mentors in fields related to the ones you’re focused on in order to cast a wide net. Once you have generated a list of matches, read the mentors’ profiles to find those that best fit your search. The mentors at the top of the list of results have registered most recently. To access the message system, select the primary job of the mentor you would like to contact. This link will direct you to either enter your username and password or, if you’re already logged in, take you to the message system.
If you selected a mentor’s primary job and received a message that telephone contact is preferred, please contact us at email@example.com to find out next steps.
If you are unable to find a mentor through the search feature, then you may e-mail AFB CareerConnect at CareerConnect@afb.net to get some help.
Below is a list of tips on contacting mentors, along with some questions that you may want to ask your mentor(s) once you’ve established a connection. Remember that the mentors you find through AFB are all volunteers—they don’t receive compensation for their time or expertise and they are not required to help or respond if they are busy when you contact them. It’s important to limit yourself to a few thoughtfully chosen questions so that your mentor can spend their time on the topics that are most important to you.
Tips for Contact
- Do not share your personal information (last name, phone number, or personal e-mail address) with a mentor.
- For written e-mails or messages, start your note with “Dear CareerConnect Mentor” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”
- Introduce yourself by your first name and explain that you were put in contact with them through the AFB CareerConnect mentor program.
- Tell the mentor a little about yourself and what career path or job you are interested in exploring.
- Let the mentor know that you would like to learn more about the work he or she does. You may ask your own questions or use some of those listed below.
- Thank the mentor for his or her time and for answering your questions.
- You never know where you will make good professional contacts. Spell check any written messages prior to sending.
- Whenever you interact with a mentor, be appropriate in your behavior and language and act in a manner that demonstrates you are serious about your job search.
- If you are contacting a mentor via the phone, it’s just as important to be appropriate, gracious, and polite. Act in a manner that shows you are serious about your job search.
Before contacting AFB CareerConnect mentors, you may want to write out a list of questions to ask. In section 3.2 you started thinking about questions to ask someone in your job of interest—review those questions and think about which are most important to you right now, at the beginning of your job analysis.
The following list may contain a question or two that you’d like to include at this stage. DO NOT copy and paste all of the questions below and send them to a mentor at once—be thoughtful about what you really want to know about the mentor’s job at this point and let the conversation evolve from there.
- How did you find your job?
- How long have you had your job?
- Where did you receive your training for this job?
- What jobs did you have before this one?
- Did you take vocational courses in high school, college or trade school that you recommend I consider?
- Did you participate in an internship or an apprenticeship?
- Does your present company offer on-the-job training?
- What is a typical starting salary for this job?
- What is your typical workday like?
- How do you get to and from work?
- How do you perform your job duties?
- Do you use specialized tools or equipment to perform your job duties?
- How did you finance the purchase of any specialized equipment you use on the job?
- Where and from whom did you receive training in how to operate the tools you use to perform your job?
- What related jobs do you know of that I might want to investigate?
- What are your current career goals?
After You’ve Contacted A Mentor
Some CareerConnect mentors will be quick to respond to your message or phone call. Others may take some time to get back to you, and some may not be able to respond to you at all. Be patient and remember that mentors are working professionals who volunteer their time to CareerConnect. No mentor is under an obligation to respond to your contact.
If you don’t receive a response within a week from a mentor you’ve contacted, let CareerConnect know at firstname.lastname@example.org. AFB will try to find you a mentor that suits your needs.
Don’t Stop Now!
Fostering mentor relationships with people in all aspects of your life can be a great way to form a support system and build your network. There is no reason to limit yourself to only one—or one type of—mentor. As your life progresses and your goals change, you may find new people to help guide, advise, and serve as role models for you. They may be in your field or outside of it, visually impaired or not, far more experienced than you, or only moderately so. Each of these relationships can prove valuable to you, either for providing different perspectives on the same subject, or for offering different types of advice altogether. The more varied your mentor relationships are, the more beneficial these relationships will be to you.
In addition to the benefits of advice and support, mentors have their own personal and professional networks. At various points along your career path, one or more of your mentors may be able to offer connections that could benefit your job search. In section 2.2, we discussed the importance of expanding your network; this is just another way to accomplish this task.
When you think about it, almost anyone can be a mentor: your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, colleagues, even acquaintances. Fostering a new mentor relationship can be easy—just ask for advice and guidance and be appreciative when you receive it. Most people are glad to share their experiences and support younger or less experienced colleagues or friends.
Get out there and get connected to other mentors!