How to find a career mentor while you’re still in college

Pop quiz: What do Mr. Miyagi, Yoda, and Professor Dumbledore have in common? Aside from being pretty badass film icons, they’re each incredibly gifted mentors. True, the chances of meeting someone who can transform you into a karate master or Jedi Knight are slim. But you can find a career mentor in college to help show you the way forward.

“A mentor can help you establish your career direction and set long-term goals,” says Beth Zefo, senior human resources manager at MHI Shared Services Americas and co-author of Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career.

And the great thing about being in a college environment is having access and exposure to so many people who are more than qualified to help guide you through the job search process, and later, the working world. 

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Career risks you should never take

Congratulations: You’re awesome at what you do. But don’t prolong the celebration. To continue to learn, sharpen your skills, and advance in your career, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and tackle new ground. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the equivalent of a hamster wheel.

“Risks are a fundamental part of career progression,” says Denver-based career coach Jennifer DeWall. “If you never take risks, you won’t reach your full potential.”

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Reconnect with your professional network

Professional networking is key to career development, but there are only so many hours in the day you can devote to it. Ideally, you’d keep in regular contact with your entire network so that your connections are on tap when you need them for, say, a reference or a job lead. But, alas, we’re all human, and things can get in the way of our even best laid plans.

“Keeping in touch with professionals in your sphere is a great thing to do, but more urgent tasks, like a pressing deadline, often take precedent,” says Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting and author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking. “A lot of times, staying connected with people falls to the bottom of your to-do list.”

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