Finding An Effective Mentor

Recruiting is a tough business even if you’re an experienced recruiter, but it can be especially tough for those who are just starting out in the industry.  When I first entered this business, I had a terrible time learning the ropes in Information Technology recruiting. It seemed as if I would never make my way through the haze of technical IT terminology or master cold calling candidates and hiring authorities, in addition to learning the full spectrum of recruiting techniques and performing the daily activities necessary to run a successful business.  That’s when another recruiter took me under her wing and helped me to persevere through the difficult times in order to reach my full potential.  Without the knowledge and encouragement I gained from that mentoring relationship, I might not be in this business today.

Recruiting: it’s all about people

Recruiting is a people business, there’s no doubt about that.  Other recruiters can be your biggest resource and your best source of valuable information.

There are two main benefits to such a relationship: 1) the training and information that you gain from it, and 2) the built-in accountability that comes with it.  Gaining the knowledge is one thing.  Actually applying it is quite another; and a good mentor will be there to help you do that.  In fact, having an accountability partner is a great idea for any recruiter, even those who are veterans in the business, but that’s a topic for another article.

You can seek out a mentor in just about any type of recruiting situation.  If you work for a franchise, there should be more tenured recruiters there who might be able to help.  If you work for an independent recruiting firm, veteran co-workers could mentor you in that situation, as well.  And even if you run a one-person recruiting operation, membership in a formal network or your local, state, and national organizations can put you in contact with people all across the country who are willing to be a mentor and aid in the growth of your professional development.

Now that you know where you can find a mentor, what exactly should you look for?  Take time to find the right mentor—the wrong mentoring relationship could very well spell disaster for a new or struggling recruiter.

A quick checklist

You’ve probably already identified other recruiters, people you talk with on a consistent basis, who seem to possess a wealth of information, expertise, and experience.  In fact, you might even consider them to be role models in the industry.  These people are candidates for a mentoring relationship, but the fact that you admire them does not mean they would serve you best as a mentor.  Consider the following:

•    The right mentor must be a good listener.  Being a good mentor doesn’t mean doing all the talking.  An effective mentor must know as much as they can about you so they can help you to succeed in every way possible.  This means they should be familiar with your goals, ambitions, personality, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses.  To discover these things, they’ll have to listen as much as they talk.

•    They must be honest.  Honesty is not only a virtue; it’s a catalyst for progress.  A good mentor has to walk the fine line between encouraging you and admonishing you.  Their insights and your application of those insights are the quickest way for you to achieve professional growth.  But remember, it’s a balance.  You don’t want somebody who brow beats you all the time, but you must be willing to absorb a little constructive criticism without taking offense.

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•    They should have different strengths than you.  A mentor who is skilled in a certain area that you’re not will be able to help you improve in that area.  Engaging in a mentoring relationship shouldn’t reinforce your weaknesses; it should minimize them, eliminate them all together, or ideally, transform them into strengths.

•    They must be successful.  A lot of recruiters can talk the talk, but you want someone who has walked the walk.  Do they have a successful structure to their day?  Do they read and stay updated on market trends and what is happening in their particular niche?  Are they still learning?  Do they seek training?  Are they making money?

Good market, bad market—makes no difference

Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “But the market is good right now.  There are job orders everywhere.  Why can’t I make placements?”  These days, it’s the lack of top-notch talent that is causing problems for recruiters across the country. Whether it’s a candidate-driven market or a company-driven market, there will always be challenges.  You need to know what to do in each of these situations.

If you need help, seek a mentor who can help you excel.  People who have experienced a great deal of success and accumulated a wealth of knowledge are usually glad to pass on that knowledge and experience. I’m extremely grateful to the person who took me under her wing many years ago and helped me grow and flourish with a mentoring relationship that was truly a blessing to me in more ways than one.  That’s because we’ve stayed in contact with one another and carry on a friendship that reminds me of the importance of helping other recruiters and of giving back to the profession that has been so satisfying and meaningful to me over the course of my career.

Melinda Pittman, CPC is President of The Pittman Group, an IT and Bioscience search and staffing firm located in Memphis, Tenn.

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