Finding a mentor is one of the proven ways to push your career forward. You learn directly from the person who has encountered the challenges you are facing now and can offer you motivation, insider tips and specific guidance. Under the supervision of an accomplished and more experienced person, you start growing professionally much faster than if you had tried to work your way on your own.
Both college students and experienced professionals will benefit from having a role model they could follow. However, many ambitious professionals struggle to find a good mentor or are not sure how to build and cultivate the mentor-mentee relationships. If you’re one of them, today’s guide from our career experts will answer your questions as follow:
✓ Why you need a mentor at all
✓ How to choose a mentor and where to find them, and
✓ A guide to building a mutually beneficial mentor-mentee relationship.
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54% of employees report not having a mentor at the moment. People neglect the importance of mentorship for many reasons – they are not sure how exactly the mentor will be of help, don’t know where to find one, or see working with a mentor as a meaningless lunch chitchat. It’s time to reveal the myths, so let’s take a look at the benefits of having a mentor:
· They can help work out your career issues
Everyone has issues at work that prevent them from moving forward. Let’s say you’re dread of speaking up during meetings or don’t know where to grow professionally since there are no advancement opportunities in your company. Maybe, your boss takes credit for all your ideas. Your older and more experienced mentor has likely encountered a similar situation in their career, so they can give you first-hand tips on how to become a perfect employee you won’t hear anywhere else.
· They have access to resources you wouldn’t find otherwise
Your mentor has worked their way up in the profession where you are only at the beginning of the career path. Therefore, they can consult you on educational opportunities existing in your industry, recommend companies to work for or workshops to take. However, more importantly, your mentor knows the right people who can help advance your career. For instance, they may know someone in your dream company so you can pass your resume to a hiring person directly.
· They inspire to you set goals and help focus
Let’s say you work as a junior accountant but are not sure where to head next in your career. Should you stay in a corporate position in a bank, change an industry, or start your own accounting and finance business? Using their broad perspective and vision, your mentor will help you evaluate the situation comprehensively and make the right decision. Since your mentor is an accomplished person, they know everything about setting the right long-term goals, and can teach you to set smart goals that will give you an inspiration at work.
· They keep you on track for the long-term success
On average, mentoring relationships last for 3.3 years. This time frame is more than enough for you to make significant career progress using the knowledge and inspiration that your mentor provides. Moreover, since you’ll have regular meeting schedules, it will keep you from procrastinating and giving it up when you have a series of bad days. The feeling of accountability will additionally stimulate you to grow.
· They can share personal experience and insights
When you face a specific challenge in your career, there are also options to ask a friend to help, reach out to your manager or Google your situation. Yet, nobody can give you a more valuable piece of advice than a person who had the same situations at the beginning of their career. Your mentor can prevent you from making career mistakes, thus saving your time and energy. And the personal experience and stories they share will help you see the situation differently and inspire you to make the right career decisions.
Cooperating with a mentor is definitely worth trying. Now that you are familiar with all the pros of taking advice from a senior accomplished professional, let’s take a look at how to make it happen with maximum benefit for both sides.
Regular talks with someone older and more experienced are really helpful – provided that your goals are clear and you take the mentorship seriously. Here’s how to make the most out of mentor-mentee collaboration:
1. Clearly understand your goals
Before you reach out to someone and ask to mentor you, review your own professional goals and reflect on what you are trying to achieve. Do you have a specific career situation that hinders your career progress (for instance, a tense relationship with your boss, a fear of taking initiative or leading others)? Or, are you in a junior digital marketing role and are looking to work your way up to the head of marketing?
Understanding what the goal of your cooperation with the mentor is and where exactly you need help will help you find the right person for your career needs. For instance, if you need help working out the relationships in the office, your mentor doesn’t have to be relevant to your industry and goals, whereas if you look for a role model to push your career forward, it’s absolutely essential that you admire your mentor.
2. Define your expectations from a mentor
Whether you choose to work with a mentor from your corporation or to find a person externally, keep in mind that you are reaching out to a busy person. So, you’ll have to do all the job when it comes to discussing the format of your interactions and clarifying your expectations. You’ll need to discuss how often you will meet, face-to-face or via FaceTime, and what kind of mentoring and advice you expect from them.
For instance, you might say ‘I need help and guidance to advance my career as an account manager, and I would like to discuss my progress and hear your advice bi-monthly during face-to-face meetings’. Write a powerful email to communicate your proposal so that the person could see if it’s something they are willing to help you with. By the way, here are some expert tips on writing emails professionally: http://resumeperk.com/blog/how-to-write-effective-email-that-get-opened.
3. Don’t be shy to reach out
Some aspiring professionals say that they don’t feel comfortable reaching out to someone who is accomplished and busy only to ask them for mentorship. But, in fact, this fear is absolutely groundless. Firstly, the ‘stars’ in any profession are used to the mentorship requests so your inquiry won’t be seen as something unusual. Secondly, many accomplished people find it satisfactory to help younger professionals learn and grow.
And finally, even if some people ignore or decline your request, chances are that there are some people will be glad to become a member, especially if you approach them humbly and politely. There are several main approaches to finding a mentor – we’ll talk about them later in this article.
4. Don’t ask your line manager to become a mentor
Even if you admire your boss, asking them to mentor you isn’t the best idea. Firstly, your boss is meant to keep in mind the interests of the organization, not your professional development and growth. Secondly, a mentor-mentee relationship assumes confidentiality. This is especially important when you plan to discuss performance issues or office intrigues. Speaking about it with your line manager can cause a conflict of interests. Let alone the fact that if your boss mentors you, the other team members might think that the raise or promotion you got was because of that mentorship only.
Your line manager can be indispensable when it comes to reaching out to someone more senior in the company that you’d like to mentor you, though. You might ask your boss to talk to that person first, and only then to reach out by yourself.
5. Find a mentor with the right personality traits
Apart from relevant career experience and professional accomplishments, it’s also important that your target mentor has the set of qualities that are important for every good mentor. Firstly, it’s the willingness and excitement about sharing their life stories and advice. If the mentor simply answers your questions or tells you what to do, it won’t give you the needed inspiration. Secondly, they should be an active listener who asks questions to better evaluate your situation and stimulates you to find the solution.
Thirdly, your mentor needs to realize that mentoring is a long process, and be willing to invest in you for a long period of time. And finally, your mentor should be respectful and avoid imposing their own beliefs and views. They need to realize that each person is unique, and what worked for them might not be the best tactic for you.
6. Do your homework
During the face-to-face or online meetings, the mentor will probably give you actionable tips, pieces of advice, resources for learning and skill building, and more. Whereas the mentor can give you guidance and share their vision on the issues that you encounter, taking practical steps is up to you. Your mentor won’t do all the heavy lifting – they can only guide and motivate.
So, as the new meeting is approaching, make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps as discussed. Your mentor invests their time and effort in you, and they want to see that their contribution helps you develop as a professional.
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7. Be humble and respectful
When it comes to making an initial contact with your mentor, be genuine and humble. Outline your situation briefly, explain why you want their help and what exact help you expect from them. It’s up to them to decide whether to help you or not, but being human increases your chances.
Later on, when you work with the mentor already, be grateful for their help and assistance. The person helps you on an unpaid basis and invests their time and knowledge, so be respectful and attentive to whatever they recommend. It’s a good idea to return the favor, for instance, pay for their coffee or assist with their project if they ask you for help.
Remember that since your mentor is busy and it’s you who needs their help, nurturing your relationship is also up to you. Be punctual, share your progress, and thank for their time and effort. If you are persistent and attentive enough, a mentor’s guidance can provide you with priceless insights that will move your career forward unbelievably fast.
The easiest and quickest way is to find a career mentor online. Yet, LinkedIn is not everything – consider your network and think strategically to find someone whose advice can really drive your career.
· LinkedIn – the fastest and easiest way to find potential mentors. Simply look for people who work on the positions and for the companies that you’d like to work on in 5-7 years, and reach out to them to ask if they work with mentees. Be ready to send a number of letters before you find a good mentor.
· Mentorship program – if you work for a corporation, there are probably mentoring programs within your company. Reach out to your manager to find out more about this program and how you can participate.
· Leaders from your company – is there anyone within your company whose career and accomplishments inspire you? Consider getting in touch with them and ask if they can mentor you on a long-term basis or help in resolving a particular career challenge.
· Your network – former supervisor, volunteer managers, professors, or someone else you know and respect can make a good mentor. Anyone you know personally or through someone can make a good mentor provided that they have the experience and skills you need.
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