How Can Having the Right Mentor or Coach Benefit an MBA Student?

updated on 23 June 2021

Your first job post MBA is key. It’s what gets you started on the right (or wrong) path and becomes the foundation for the next few roles you land in the early years of your career. It’s where you start building the right networks that remain with you for years. In your next job interview, you will be asked what you were doing in your previous job and why.

And yet, scores of students leave their first job to destiny - a take whatever comes approach. After collectively coaching and mentoring thousands of students over a decade, we have identified the top few reasons why so many students start in jobs that are a poor fit for them:

  1. They didn’t know of the different opportunities or jobs that were on offer until it was too late
  2. As a result, they were ill-prepared for a role when it came up
  3. And lastly, they just didn’t have access to their dream job and were often limited by the companies that recruited from their campus

While fixing the third is equal parts luck and hustle to build your own networks, students can actively work on the first two. One of the ways is to have a mentor or a coach who can guide you in identifying the sweet spot between your interests & strengths and expose you to the world of opportunities that exist out there. We have a three pronged approach to guiding our mentees through this process

  1. Goal Setting: Understand the student’s background and their aspirations. Use this to identify potential opportunities that they can target: some of which are dream opportunities and other that are solid backup options. And finally, agree on on the effort that the student commits to as a way of strengthening their candidature for these opportunities. These could be projects that they take on, making an informed choice on the electives they pursue or even certifications they undertake

    The objective at this stage is to expose the mentee to a wide range of options that exist and understand the likelihood of them materialising. This information equips the student to plan their preparation and job search in a strategic way, splitting their effort objectively between a few dream options and some other options which are more likely to convert

  2. Knowledge: Once you have identified your goal(s), the next step is to go about acquiring the knowledge you need to achieve this goal. This step serves two purposes - the first is that it makes you a strong candidate. The second, and equally important, is that it helps you acquire the “badges” to tell the world that you’re a good candidate. Think of undertaking courses/subjects/electives, certifications or attending workshops about a specific industry or function that help you get a deeper knowledge of that space
  3. Interviewing Skills: This step is all about learning to effectively communicate what you know in a short amount of time, in the best possible way. After all, what use is all the knowledge in the world if you can’t communicate it effectively. And while the goal is not to “standardise” how different students communicate - after all, we must allow the uniqueness of every student to shine through, the idea is to equip students with certain interviewing and functional frameworks that help them give well thought through and “complete” answers to interview questions, something that is difficult to do in the moment unless you have practiced the art of interviewing

Now that we’ve understood the journey that our mentees go through, let’s see what attributes make for a good mentor:

  1. Empathy: they have gone through the same MBA job search journey that you have undertaken. They also have a few more years of experience than the mentee to reflect on what they would have done better while seeking their first post MBA job

  2. Wide Domain/Industry Experience: Very often, students do not have just one area of interest. In fact, we encourage students to explore different areas and find their own passions that they wish to pursue. In order for a mentor to expose a student to a wide range of opportunities and guide them accordingly, we advise that students seek mentors with experience across at least a few industries and domains. Only for students who are very sure of a single industry or domain that they are keen on do we advise a mentor who is a functional expert

  3. Structured Thinking: Very often, students are grappling with a lot of uncertainties and questions and are still figuring out their interests and strengths. It always helps to have a mentor who can bring some structure to the chaos and guide your efforts in the right direction at the right time. Our most successful mentors help focus a student’s efforts to one or two goals at each stage of their journey

Closing Advice

Having the right mentor at the right stage of your career can be a great investment in yourself, but do so only if you’re committed to acting on the plan you agree with your mentor and work on their advice. Eventually, your success depends largely on your own actions. To get started on your journey to making better informed decisions about your first job post MBA, schedule a 1-1 Goal Setting session

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