The Power of Mentorship: A Vektor Success Story

Meander
8 min readMar 20, 2023

Dmitrii Vastianov shares his experience of struggling to find a job when moving abroad, and how Vektor’s mentors steered him towards a different way of applying that eventually landed him three separate offers.

About Me

At the start of 2022, I had a job and no baby. By the end of that year, I had a baby and no job. In case you were wondering, the second scenario is a lot more stressful than the first.

This is a story of how mentorship took me from a stressful time in my life and helped me get things back on track.

Some Context

London, 2022. I was working for a bank knowing my package was below market rate.

I’d bring this up with my boss from time to time but our conversations didn’t really go anywhere.

We’re not on a growth trajectory at the moment. Can we discuss this in six months?

I started doing that laid back job search where you send the occasional speculative application but you’re not in full existential angst mode, scribbling together cover letters while looking over your shoulder in the office.

I was still making enough to be happy. Maybe I could wait those six months and see what happened.

Then, in February, my wife became pregnant.

This was amazing news!

But also: oh shit, I remember myself thinking. I can’t put the job thing off any longer. I rushed back into the application process — lots of people were still hiring and I felt like applications were going somewhere.

Between platforms like Otta and inbound messages on LinkedIn, things went well and I was able to use two separate offers to leverage a 10% pay rise at my current role.

At the same time, my wife and I decided it was best for her to give birth in South Korea, where she has family. This became a real sticking point as my company wouldn’t support me abroad, and the companies who had given me offers weren’t comfortable with the prospect of me working remote for a few months.

The offers were recalled. I moved to South Korea anyway, meaning I had to quit my current role.

I felt that some time off might be a good thing at this point. I had side projects I wanted to pursue, and my application experiences in London left me confident I could find more opportunities in a few months’ time.

This was not the case. When I felt ready to start applying again, the market seemed dried up. I wasn’t finding anywhere near the number of leads.

Here were my two main pain points at this time:

  • Local opportunities were harder to find. South Korea’s Google equivalent is called Naver, and, predictably, it’s in Korean characters.
  • The opportunities I did find through familiar sources such as LinkedIn and Angel List were a struggle. People ghosted, or didn’t respond at all

I was getting nowhere and I really wasn’t being passive with my search. I would apply to startups, reach out to the founders on LinkedIn, book calls to learn about the company, nurture relationships.

Three months went by. I didn’t know what was going wrong. I really doubted myself and how I even got my previous job in the first place.

Oh, and the baby came.

The baby came and I didn’t have a job.

I was already stressed but this hit my mental health in a whole new way.

At a certain point the job search becomes a maddening blur of sending out applications, trying to enmesh myself with the right people, and finding ways to distract myself from the anxiety-inducing reality of not having worked for months.

And also I had a baby.

At one point I was hustling through LinkedIn and came across the profile of Anna Buldakova, CEO and founder of Vektor AI.

I read some of the things she’d written about mentorship and I felt like this was something I needed.

I didn’t have any more answers, and I wanted to try anything to shake up this stale formula I’d been trying with little success.

Commencing Vektor Phase

Within five minutes of joining Vektor’s platform, I was looking at mentor profiles. I could filter to the exact specification I needed: Product Managers with 5 years of experience — people who were slightly more senior to me.

My main objectives here were to find myself a more senior PM role but first to understand why I was floundering.

Why wasn’t I getting any interviews?

How could I make myself more competitive?

How could I be more resilient when faced with all this negativity?

I contacted twelve mentors and received eight responses. I booked eight phone calls.

The message I sent was somewhat standard but slightly tailored to each mentor’s background:

Nina was the first person I spoke to. She jumped on a call with me THE NEXT DAY.

Let me tell you: those first sessions were almost like therapy. To be able to just vent to someone related to my professional space was really important.

I’m not sure what Nina was expecting when we had our first call, but I couldn’t have been happier.

Keen as I was to get straight into the business of applying for even more jobs, she didn’t prescribe anything to me in this session. She just heard me out, listened to the sense of defeatedness I felt and the futility of what I was doing.

Her first piece of advice: Dmitrii, chill out.

She referenced several people with 10+ years of experience who were also struggling. She approved of the way I was applying for jobs and asked to review my CV.

In short: she calmed me the heck down. I really needed it. I guess she sensed that.

Over the next week I had five more calls with different mentors. I kind of expected the responses to become repetitive after the next two or three, but every single person gave me something new to think about.

I found myself suddenly buoyed. Not because I was making leaps and bounds in my applications yet, but I just felt okay to be not in an amazing situation.

Advice

Eventually, we got into some more concrete suggestions for my job search. Here were the highlights from across my half dozen sessions:

  • “Passive” applying should only take up 20% of my time. Things like LinkedIn ‘Easy Apply’ are long shots, so don’t commit too much time up front.
  • Instead, invest time in creating a network, in this case from scratch. One way to do this is finding local tech communities — Meetup is a great app to build this bridge (I joined the Fintech and Seoul community groups)
  • I went to in-person events, got to know the organisers, and offered my own support to put on future events
  • Write some content. Draw people to my profile by promoting myself with thought pieces only I could write. In this case, my very first job search experience after my startup failed
  • Improve interview skills. I was recommended Exponent which has a ton of great resources such as mock interviews to really nail down your technique
  • CV review. Oh God, how different this thing looks now. Night. And. Day.

Within a few weeks, I was having 5–6 conversations every week with potential employers or people who had been in my shoes. For example, a hiring manager at Canopy (which, spoiler alert, is the company that hired me) commented on my article, which led me to follow up and get a second shot at a role with them. It does work!

The emphasis on getting things done in person, no matter how much of a long shot, was great for two reasons.

First, it dramatically reduced the ghosting. You’re more memorable just by being in the same room.

Second, it started to undo a lot of the self-confidence drain that had happened. I was getting back outside, connecting with people again. This was invaluable.

Through all this advice, the fundamental message I got was this: it’s not going to be straightforward where your next opportunity comes from. The important thing is to poke around in different areas all the time. You’ll start to wonder whether it’s your tactics or some cosmic dice roll that’s getting you in the door. Really, it’s both. Embrace both.

The conversations started happening, and the interviews soon followed.

I received my FIRST OFFER IN ALMOST 5 MONTHS just before Christmas!

I reached out to the companies I was currently interviewing with to let them know about the offer, which sped up the application process.

Soon, I was choosing between two.

The first offer was 60% of my original salary and, though average salaries are lower in South Korea than in London, this was still a tough hurdle to overcome mentally.

Then a cosmic dice roll thing happened.

I got a response from the hiring manager at Canopy. Something to the effect of we turned you down last time because of your performance on this particular part of the interview process. Well, we’ve now cut that interview out of our recruitment strategy, so we’d like you to re-enter the applicant pool.

I came back, and got an offer from Canopy a week later.

So then I had three job offers. Three, after a year of hair-pulling, confidence-erasing job search.

I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so light.

I took the job at Canopy, and logged back into the Vektor platform to thank my mentors.

They all agreed to meet me in person over the next few weeks.

And our relationship didn’t end there.

I have calls booked in over the next few weeks to start thinking about what comes next.

Wrapping Up

I got into mentorship after I hit a low point in my career, but this definitely shouldn’t be the only time you dip your toe in that space.

People with two or three more years of experience than you can provide game-changing advice.

Maybe they have the exact same role you’re chasing.

Maybe they worked on a similar project, or know someone who can lend a hand.

And maybe they’ve also hit low points and their words of consolation can break you out of a difficult moment and bring you back to yourself.

To the mentors who did all those things for me: I am very grateful to you all.

In the months that followed these experiences, Dmitrii became a mentor on the Vektor platform! If you’d like to take advantage of his experiences, contact him here.

--

--

Meander

Meander is a mentorship platform that helps you make better career choices and grow in the career you are passionate about.