Interview with Career Guru Ryan Kahn: On Mentors and Standing Out

Interview with Career Guru Ryan Kahn: On Mentors and Standing Out

We sat down with Ryan Kahn, Career Coach for Dream Careers, Inc. and star of MTV’s Hired, to ask him for some advice on finding mentors and standing out in the hiring process.

How would you recommend students to go about finding mentors? And how do you ask someone to be your mentor?

Mentorships are a great way to learn and grow in an industry and I would strongly encourage everyone to have at least one. Sometimes the hardest part of getting a mentor is just building up the courage to ask but once that is out of the way the opportunities are endless.

What I’d recommend is set up your personal “Mentor List.” Have the first on that list someone who seems far out of the reach of your network but you admire their career, for example the CEO of Warner Bros. Then the next five on the list will be within you’re extended network for example alums of your school, local business owners and friends of family. Round out the list with four people within your personal network in example your favorite professor, boss, family member or friend. Now that you have the list its time to contact each of them… OK I know you’re thinking how in the world am I going to contact the CEO of Warner Bros, well I’ll tell you later on in this interview!

For each person you reach out to write out a captivating message which is clear and to the point of who you are, why you respect them and their career and then close with asking them to be your mentor. It all needs to start with a hook in the subject line, one that I’ve found to work great is “You were 21 once right?” a subject like that brings them back to when they were your age and helps to level the playing field.

Now that you know what to say, how do you contact them? I would recommend (in order) via phone, email, hand written letter, or through their social network page. Some people on your list you may have their phone number or need to go to their companies website for their contact info but others may be tough to find… that’s where you’ll need to be creative. You ever notice people at the same company seem to have the same email address? Well that’s how you’ll get to who you want to contact. For example if you want to email someone at Warner Bros their emails are set up just plug in their name and send! Now I’m not recommending you email blast or spam CEO’s but I want you to take any chance to seek out great advice and find a mentor that can help you be successful.

Let me know if this works for you? @RyanKahnHired

Who was one of your mentors?

One great mentor for me was my teacher Randy Jackson who taught my Artist & Repertoire class. Despite his hectic schedule filming the show American Idol and a newly released book with press interviews around the world including Oprah; Randy still took the time out of his day to be at our class to teach his students. His work ethic was definitely an inspiration for me and taught me tons in my career.

What are 5 strategies to stand out in the hiring process?

A great strategy is pick out the handful of positions you are truly qualified for and put all of your efforts and resources into those specific openings. Often I see people blasting their resume out to every job opening online. You’ll find more success with focused efforts.

These days internships are crucial to landing a job out of college. The more experience and contacts you make, the better you are positioning yourself for your future.

It is all about knowing someone who works at the company that can get your foot in the door. Ask family, friends, anyone you can. If no luck there, don’t worry. You can take it into your own hands by being active on the company’s social media pages or seeking out people who work for the company on Facebook and LinkedIn to message them directly and tactfully. Still no luck? Try hanging out at the coffee shop or lunch spot across from the office -- you never know, one of their employees may be in line behind you.

Think ‘Inside the Box.’ Try mailing in your resume to the hiring manager using an empty shipping box filled with just one copy of your resume. That’s one way to get noticed!

Don’t be afraid to follow up with hiring managers. Often job seekers fail to follow up because they are afraid of rejection. Be persistent and make personal connections, as it may land you your dream career.

Career expert Ryan Kahn is a Career Coach for Dream Careers, Inc. and star of MTV’s Hired; the 20-episode documentary series helping recent grads land the job of their dreams. Kahn has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Star Magazine and is author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad. His intimate working relationships with industry leaders makes him the go-to expert for dream jobs.