Home Online Business Blog The Role of Mentors and Coaches in MBA Graduate Career Advancement: Identifying Mentors, Building Relationships and Seeking Guidance

The Role of Mentors and Coaches in MBA Graduate Career Advancement

17 Jun
Professional women engaged in discussion with a recent graduate

As an MBA student or new graduate, you have high hopes for your career. You’re ready for the next leadership opportunity that comes your way, and you’re itching for the chance to prove your capabilities. However, you may be overlooking something that can truly propel your career to the next level: mentorship.

Forming a mentor-mentee relationship with a professional you admire can smooth your path to career development, professional growth and future advancement opportunities. You’ll learn valuable information about career planning and development from a source who has been in your shoes. Plus, you’ll receive constructive feedback and guidance that can help you identify and improve on your weaknesses.1

Keep reading to learn how career coaching can benefit MBAs.

Identifying the Right Mentors and Coaches

Finding the right mentor can be challenging. You want someone whom you feel comfortable with, who is good at listening, and who is interested in seeing you succeed in your professional life.2 The best mentors are usually three to five years ahead of you in their own career, so they understand your struggles and have experience working through them.2

There are several ways you can find a suitable mentor. You might connect with a prior boss you respected or join a professional network that supports mentoring, for example.2 Some MBA graduates reach out to their professors or academic advisors for support. Universities are well-equipped to connect grads and students with mentors who can provide solid career advice and guidance.

Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to work in the same industry or profession as you do. Some mentees find that unconnected mentors provide objective and helpful insights that their peers may not possess. This type of mentor might also be great at helping you gain insights for personal growth.

Building Relationships With Mentors and Coaches

Once you narrow down a list of potential mentors, focus on relationship building. Schedule some time to get to know each candidate over coffee or lunch. If you don’t know the person well, explain why you contacted them and what you hope to achieve.2 Are you looking for overall career development? Are you hoping to gain skill development or skill enhancement that will benefit you in a job search? Are you looking for personal development? It helps to describe why you feel that they might be a suitable mentor and what attracted you to them.

You might prepare a list of questions beforehand so you can refer to them if you need to during your conversation.2 Note that your potential mentor is likely to ask you questions about your career and future life goals as well, so think about them ahead of time so you can articulate your objectives.2

Remember, most mentors give you their time for free.2 It’s not a paid relationship, and they have other responsibilities to take care of. Work around their schedule and try not to impose on them if they’re busy with other things. When you meet, offer to pay for their coffee or meal if possible.

The Role of Guidance in Career Development

One of the top functions of a mentor is giving career advice, perspective and guidance. Your mentor may have years or even decades of work experience to draw upon, which they can use to guide you in your career development and decisions.3 Their knowledge and advice can help you avoid mistakes that would hinder your progress toward your goals.3

Your mentor can also advise you on soft skills that can help accelerate your career. While your MBA demonstrates you’ve gone the extra mile to further your education, other learning opportunities may benefit you. For instance, you might benefit from a public speaking course or leadership skill development and training.

Navigating Personal and Professional Life Challenges With Mentorship

You may experience a few obstacles in a new mentor-mentee relationship. One of the most common is finding the time to meet.4 Both of you probably have busy schedules, and staying on top of weekly or monthly mentorship meetings may be challenging.4 To overcome scheduling problems, try to agree on a set time to meet each month and stick to it. You may also consider alternating in-person meetings with virtual ones.

Another issue can be incompatibility, especially if a mentor is assigned to you through a program.4 If you don’t connect with a mentor, let the appropriate party know as soon as possible. That way, you and the mentor avoid wasting too much time, and you can find another mentor who better suits you.

Finally, it’s essential to define your expectations for the relationship. While mentors can certainly help you navigate career difficulties, expand your network, and prepare for future leadership roles, you still need to put in the work yourself. Your mentor plays a supportive role in your efforts.

Leveraging Mentorship for Networking Opportunities

Since mentors usually have significant career experience, they’ve had time to cultivate relationships with decision-makers and leaders in their field of expertise. As your relationship develops, your mentor may introduce you to some of their contacts, helping you expand your professional network and finesse your networking skills.3

A network of professional contacts is a powerful thing to have. You can lean on your network to find a job that may further your career progression.3 In fact, nearly 85% of jobs are filled through personal or professional connections.5 A simple introduction to the right person could be the only thing holding you back from your dream career!

Success Story: GE’s Mentorship Program

General Electric is one example of a company that understands the benefits of career coaching and communication skills.6 GE is known for its mentorship program, which pairs entry-level and mid-level employees with senior team members, helping them develop the skills they need for future leadership roles.6 However, the pairing also has benefits for the mentors, who can pick up critical technical skills to stay up to date in their professions.6

General Electric’s Global Leadership Institute facilitates mentorship opportunities across countries and divisions.6 Your university may provide you with mentorship opportunities that can assist with your personal and professional life growth. At William & Mary, our professors are subject matter experts with practical experience in various industries. Plus, our extensive network of alumni can be a supportive resource to turn to for professional development.

Gain Professional Development and Build Connections Through William & Mary’s Online MBA Program

Take your networking to the next level and find a new mentor with William & Mary’s Online MBA program. Here, you’ll be prepared to lead in today’s challenging, rapidly changing business environment.

The GMAT is not required to enter the program, and we accept professionals from a wide variety of fields. The online curriculum will sharpen your design thinking and problem-solving skills so that you can successfully apply them in fast-paced business environments. Through our many resources and innovative learning platform, you can engage with a support network of world-class faculty and peers and expand your network to include accomplished colleagues online and worldwide.

To learn more about William & Mary’s Online MBA program, career development and mentorship opportunities, speak with an admissions outreach advisor today.