The Take

Why a mentor is more important than an internship08/03/17

Don’t be average. Get ahead of your pack

I’m assuming you are reading this because you are competitive as hell and want to do well in life. So I want to tell you a tip to get you ahead of your pack which I wish someone told me about when I was at QUT. You can still do well without it. But you get ahead. That’s what counts in this competitive world, extending well beyond your professional career into personal life and retirement. The fact is that everyone knows about having a mentor but nobody does it well. By all means, you can still get ahead but also you get behind the others who power through their chosen path.

You don’t know what you don’t know

To know what you don’t know, it is very important to first know your values and goals. Without relevant work experience, a mentor is an excellent way to engage with an industry professional who’s been through it all to explore your options at both personal and professional levels.

I was definitely a latecomer to this whole mentor thing. I recently sat down with my mentor who introduced me to the concept of approaching life strategically – look up the Rockefeller Habits goal-setting strategy. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s damn hard when you are trying to write down your specific goals and figure out how you can get there in 1, 5, 10 and 20 years. The hardest part? Actually executing on the plan.

The truth is that there are so many distractions around us that we need someone to guide us and put us back on track. That’s what a mentor is for. They are like a strategic advisor of your life. It is a working relationship that develops over time and both parties benefit significantly – mentor for giving back and mentee for receiving valuable guidance.

How to find/choose a good mentor

1. Someone who genuinely cares about you
You are not just going to tell your mentor that your goal of the relationship is to score internships. You want to be honest with them and tell personal stories as well as professional aspirations. How are they meant to be genuine and guide you if they don’t know you as a person?

2. Shop around for exceptional mentors
Do your own research and find someone who you look up to. Google CEO? No problem. In fact, this is a real story according to Tim Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Work Week. A student got the CEO’s email by hassling the president of his university. Then he sent a damn good email with some very good reasons. The CEO replied and he kept the relationship going. Voila! Nothing is impossible. You should read the book by the way.

3. QUT Career Mentor Scheme
QUT has a really well-structured program that matches you with an industry mentor based on your interests. They recently introduced the Early Career Mentor program for second-year undergraduate students. Mentors like myself who are graduates or have 1-5 years of experience will work with you. Register here.

4. EFB324 Work Placement in Economics and Finance
I basically got my job in venture capital indirectly through a mentor I met in the program. It’s probably the best subject I’ve done at QUT and I highly recommend any Economics or Finance students to take it. Questions? Go to the School of Economics and Finance reception on Level 8, Z block.

In addition to the above four points, you may be interested in reading this article by Startup Daily.

Strategies to engage with a mentor

I’ve already written way too much so let me share my own notes on how to be a good mentee. I wrote this in preparation for mentoring, but it will also help you get the most value out of your mentor. This is based on my research of a few related articles so you can trust it. A sneaky productivity tip? Use Evernote to dump your thoughts. Time to take your brain cloud!

I also came across this really concise article on how to create a 5-year plan. This could help you enrich the mentoring experience even more.

I’m here to help

If you liked the article and you are interested in a career as startup employee, founder, venture capitalist or business advisor, let’s have a chat. Email me at pgh.park2@gmail.com.

Peter is a QUT alumni who works as a venture capital investment analyst. He also works as an operations analyst at Smartbooks Online, an accounting tech startup. He is active in the local startup scene so go and chat if you see him at River City Labs or The Capital!