You can learn plenty from school, and working in a Wall Street firm will definitely teach you a lot, but if you intend to get any sort of top finance job, finding a mentor should be a priority.
What mentors offer
Anyone who's set their sights on any sort of professional path could use a mentor, and when it comes to finance – where who you know can be nearly as important as what you know – an advisor of sorts could help you take your career to the next level. There are plenty of benefits to finding a mentor, including getting you closer to your dream job.
A mentor can help take your career to the next level.
For example, generally a mentor will come with an extensive list of contacts that can be used for both professional advice and finding jobs. The expanded network that comes with finding a professional guide to help you navigate your career is a vital tool more valuable than platinum or gold in terms of the eventual return.
Finding the best person to guide you
Before seeking out a mentor, you should first take note of what you expect from the relationship. Different people have different styles of teaching, and it is important to find someone who works well with you. Do you want someone who will give you hands-on experience through special projects or someone who will let you learn by your mistakes? Do you want to focus on creating your own Wall Street network or on perfecting your financial modeling skills? Just asking the next person you see in an investment firm to hook you up with some advice isn't the best way to find a mentor. Map out your goals and expectations, and then look for someone with relevant experience who can help you achieve them.
When you've finally decided on what you're looking for from a mentor, think outside-the-box when conducting your search for the right person. He or she may not work in your office, or even in your industry, so cast your net wide. Check out your college alumni network, local associations, and any other groups that align with what you're looking for in a mentor.
Once you've identified someone who you think can help you achieve your goals, set up a meeting with the person. When speaking with him or her, be clear about your expectations and where you hope to soon be professionally. Make sure you're comfortable and come across as confident when explaining to the person your aspirations and how you think he or she can help you achieve them. If you're open about your search for a mentor, and you know exactly what you're looking for, you should find a teacher to push you in the right direction in no time.