For those who are just getting started on their career path or any professional who wants tried-and-true advice for reaching career success, a mentor can help you improve and grow within your field. A mentor is someone who will support and guide you with their years of knowledge and experience. As someone in a higher role in a company or organization, the role of a mentor can include advising, advocating, career coaching, and supporting less experienced people in navigating their stage in their professional lives.
The career benefits of finding a mentor to talk to are endless, and here you'll learn how to find one to suit your career needs.
So, why should you find a mentor? And how do you go about finding one?
Benefits of having a mentor
Starting a new job is often nerve-wracking — new environment, new colleagues, new responsibilities — so to have someone who's been through it all and ascended the ranks to offer guidance is invaluable for any young professional. A good mentor will help you navigate your professional life, whether that means advising you on important career decisions, sharing their expertise, or simply listening to your concerns.
Mentors can also offer practical help, such as giving you contacts in their network or sharing your resume with industry leaders. A mentor can make a great reference, as the recommendation of a well-established professional will undoubtedly be an asset to you in climbing the career ladder. As a mentee, having a trusted advisor to turn to can help you feel more secure and confident in your role, as well as give you clearly-defined career goals.
A mentorship benefits both parties involved, as both mentor and mentee gain experience in their respective roles of learning and advising. A mentor will most likely be flattered by a less experienced person looking up to them, so the mutual benefit of a mentor-mentee relationship makes it a powerful connection to have in your industry. A mentorship doesn't need to be one-sided either. In fact, the best mentoring relationship is one that gives you the opportunity to learn from each other and your careers, such as sharing contacts, gaining new perspectives on work and life, and simply having someone to share ideas with.
So it's obvious that having a mentor can give you a valuable leg-up in your career, but how do you find one?
Finding a mentor
It can feel tricky, even daunting, to try and find mentors among the many seasoned professionals around you. Do you just ask a stranger upfront if they'll mentor you? Or is it best to wait around for one to find you?
As important as finding a mentor is, it's how you go about it that can make or break your chances of securing the best mentoring relationship for your career. So read on for some helpful tips (and common mistakes) when finding a mentor.
Be clear about your goals
There's no point in trying to find someone to help you reach your goals if you're not even sure what they are. The person you choose as a potential mentor will depend largely on your needs, and what you hope to accomplish in the short and long term.
Having clearly-defined goals and aspirations will help you begin to see experienced professionals who you wish to emulate, and who are experts in your area of interest. After all, someone probably won't want to mentor you if they don't believe they can help you with your specific goals.
Tip: An author is a good example of someone who might like having mentees or someone to share information with. An author is someone who enjoys to offer guidance and provides content, articles, or advice to answer questions that a student or young professional might have. Although not every author is a career expert, the information, content, or even analytics they share with people can be very useful.
Find someone you admire
The best way to boost your career prospects is to emulate someone you admire and respect. Consider a colleague or senior employee who has accomplished things that you someday want for yourself. This is where having clearly set goals will help you. A mentor should be one whose achievements align with your objectives, because no number of career advice books can substitute for real-life experience from someone you admire.
This will also be important if that person does become your mentor. You'll gain far more from a person you look up to than someone else who is successful, but not particularly admirable. Your mentors should be people you trust and look up to, not someone who is simply successful and that's it.
Develop the relationship first
It can be awkward for everyone involved if you just approach a stranger and ask "Will you be my mentor?" First of all, you probably won't know enough about the person and their suitability to meet your mentoring needs. Secondly, anyone would feel put off being put on the spot, and whether they say yes or no this isn't the best way to begin a mentorship.
Instead, your mentor should be someone you already have a working relationship with. A fellow team member with much more experience or someone who has a similar job could work. Take the time to get to know them and to help them out wherever you can.
As time goes on, you'll probably find that you don't even need to ask them to be your mentor because the relationship will have developed organically. Then, you'll have access to their information and wisdom on the job. If you enjoy listening they probably won't mind talking or responding to your email.
Give as well as take
A common misconception around mentoring relationships is that they are essentially one-sided, and only offer something for the mentee. Approaching a mentorship with this mindset can hamper your progress and prevent the relationship from being beneficial to both parties.
Make sure to try to help them help you, whether this means connecting over social media, through your email inbox, reaching out to arrange meetings, or following their blog. Remember that they are taking time out of a packed schedule to help you out, so expressing your gratitude by treating them to lunch or coffee, or offering to assist them at work is also a good way to maintain a mentor relationship.
A mentor is a valuable asset for anyone hoping to move up the ladder. Having a mentor allows you to learn from another person's professional experience in order to reach your own career goals. As long as you follow the tips above, you'll be able to find and keep a mentor to help you thrive in your career.