Getting a job as an NLP engineer: Why and how you should find mentors
First important step in landing a high paying career in natural language processing and AI
This week we are doing a first detailed breakdown of steps to land a high-paying natural language processing (NLP) engineer job. See a post from last week on a high-level overview of the topic.👇
The theme of this week is mentorship.
I was very lucky to be supported and advised by a strong network of mentors since my first day in the field more than five years ago. Looking back, the advice and guidance of my mentors saved me countless hours that could have been lost following un-promising paths and opened up professional opportunities that I could not even imagine before.
Over the years, I saw how many of my successful colleagues found mentors in both academia and industry. All of them have had a diverse set of backgrounds that brought them to the field of NLP (former entrepreneurs, high-school dropouts, veterans, software engineers, mathematicians, and many more backgrounds I can’t recall now). Both their and my experience helped me compile this post.
Why you should find mentors?
It is very easy to get lost in such a fast-moving field like NLP, especially when you are starting up. Great mentors are at least one step ahead of you in the career. Their time and experience will be very important in helping you navigate a complex and fast-paced field of natural language processing:
Mentors will help you avoid making mistakes
I am not talking about mentors helping fix some bugs in the code or helping improve experimental results.
I am talking about bigger things that could potentially lose you years of valuable time and income. Some examples — joining the wrong group or the wrong company that won’t let you grow, taking dead-end projects that won’t improve your skills and recognition, among others.
Mentors will point to the most promising path you can take
One might think that the first point on helping avoid mistakes automatically implies making the right choice otherwise. In fact the opposite, one might suggest to you what to avoid but won’t have any clue on what is the best way for you to proceed.
Great mentors know how you can accomplish success and will explicitly point out that direction.
Mentors will help you network
Networking starts with mentors — they are the first people you reach out to in order to get a foot in the door for prospective interviews.
Mentors will pass a good word about you to others. This means that opportunities will come to you before you even realize them.
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Why would others be interested in mentoring you?
It is very important to understand why others would be interested in mentoring you before you approach them. At the end of the day, people who are higher up in their career and can offer you valuable advice are busy with tons of other commitments and opportunities.
Why would they want to spend a few hours every month catching up with you and giving their advice:
You will remember the mentors that gave you invaluable help and in turn, will help them in the future
Hard to predict how everyone’s career will look in the long term.
You might become the CEO of a promising venture and recruit your former mentors.
Or you might just simply refer them to the right people when they come and ask you for opportunities.
This helps your mentors open more doors in the future.
Mentoring is an important skill that differentiates the greatest in the field
We all have 24 hours in the day and as you become more senior in the field the number of your commitments grow (you get invited to give talks, you get involved in multiple projects, you spend time recruiting others, etc)
The only way mentors get to accomplish more is by mentoring others and enabling them to accomplish what mentors could have done themselves.
Successful mentors grow their mentees to such a high level that they get recognized and rewarded for it.
Now since we get the big picture behind why the mentor-mentee relationship is a win-win for everyone involved, let’s dive deep into how you can get the right mentors in order to land a high-paying NLP engineer job.