The Three Types of Mentors New College Graduates Need

October 14, 2013

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Welcome To The Workforce series, which focuses on sharing advice, experience, and guidance for upcoming and recent graduates entering the workforce. Today we hear from Mac Witmer, a recent UC San Diego graduate working as a GSO University Associate within the Global Sales Organization. In her first quarter at LinkedIn, Mac has identified three types of mentors that have been crucial to her success.

As you get older, it’s funny to look back on grade school and think about the life lessons that were casually ingrained into the curriculum. One experience that sticks out for me is the “reading buddy.” The reading buddy was typically an older student who was assigned to a younger student to help develop reading skills and confidence. This buddy served as a role model to the younger student.

I now realize that this dynamic was the precursor to what has become a key success factor in our professional lives. The reading buddies of the professional world have a different name but serve a similar purpose: to provide guidance and support while developing you to become a stronger professional. They are now called mentors.

LinkedIn mentors

In my first few months as a utility-paying, dinner-making “adult” professional, I have identified three key qualities that help to shape the types of mentors that are essential to a new college graduate entering the workforce.


The supportive mentor is someone you respect and look up to, but is also someone you can be vulnerable around if you need to be. As one can imagine, the “real world” can be a bit shocking to new graduates and this mentor is your go-to in times of need. This mentor may be a peer, or close to it, who has gone through a similar transition recently.

The support provided by this mentor reaffirms that you are not alone this new stage of your life and who reassures you that your company and colleagues truly care.


The inspirational mentor is easy to spot, but looks different for every individual. This mentor is someone who is in a place where you wish to be one day. This mentor may currently work in your dream job or they are crushing it in your current role. This mentor has successfully routed his or her career path and can provide inspiration and guidance for yours.

The inspiration provided by this mentor can come in forms of a job shadow experience, a lecture or informational interviews, ideally with the goal of strategic career planning.

Professional Growth

The mentor who enables your professional growth is likely someone you directly report to who has witnessed your early wins and can champion you within the company. This mentor plays a crucial role in the development and adoption of your professional brand. This mentor is likely a respected leader within the company whose opinions are taken seriously.

The professional growth this mentor helps you achieve will move the needle for you in significant ways.

Simply put, different mentors serve different purposes and throughout different stages in one’s career - different mentors will surface. However as a new graduate, these three qualities in mentors have been immensely important to success in my first quarter as a professional.

What types of qualities do you see in your mentors? If you are a mentor, do you fall into one of the three buckets more heavily or do you embody all three qualities for your mentees? Share with us on our LinkedIn Company Page or on Twitter @LinkedIn.