If you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or lost in your career path, a mentor could be just what you need for your professional development. A professional mentor can offer advice on how to advance your career as well as help you discover your passions and even deal with day-to-day career challenges. In fact, studies say young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.
More experienced colleagues are usually very willing to share industry knowledge and give guidance to younger co-workers. While providing support, mentors also can introduce you to the right people and opportunities, ensuring that you are heading in the right direction for your career.
The takeaway? Tap into their insight, as a relationship with a mentor can ultimately leverage your career.
Why you need a mentor
Chrissy Scivicque, a career coach and corporate trainer, notes that one of the biggest benefits of mentoring that she has observed with her clients — and experienced personally — is that mentors offer another perspective that you often can’t see.
She equates it to trying on a new pair of jeans and asking for a friend’s opinion. “We can only see so much of ourselves. Sometimes we can’t see our weaknesses or strengths, and a mentor can help you identify those things.”
With a wealth of experience, mentors naturally have knowledge that you may not possess and can point out skills you should develop and educational tools to take advantage of. And, while mentors are known for providing advice and support, they also are great for networking. They’ve been in the industry longer and can introduce you to their contacts.
Mentors can also hold your feet to the fire. “You can use a mentor for accountability,” says Scivicque. “Most of us are quick to let ourselves down, but not other people.” In other words, if someone is invested in your professional growth and success, you won’t want to disappoint them. You’ll want to crush your presentations, score a coveted interview, or get the promotion you’ve been vying for to make them proud.
Mentors also provide emotional support and friendship. “I have mentors that I can pick up the phone and talk with about the challenges I’m facing,” says Scivicque. “I can vent to them, and they can provide that emotional camaraderie. And, then they help me find solutions.”
How to find your mentor
Before you start searching for your mentor, decide what you want to glean from the relationship. This will help you determine what characteristics you need in a mentor.
Scivicque’s number one tip for finding the right mentor is to look for someone who has what you want — whether that’s your dream job or characteristics you admire, such as poise and charisma. “Who has that thing that you’d like to develop in yourself?” she asks.
While trying to identify your mentor, it’s best to stick close to home. Look within your company, local professional associations, networking groups, or the chamber of commerce. Use social media, such as LinkedIn, to research professionals and make a connection.
It’s important to make time each month to meet with your mentor in person, which is why proximity is key. You want to be able to schedule a lunch date or grab coffee together during the week.
“We can only see so much of ourselves. Sometimes we can’t see our weaknesses or strengths, and a mentor can help you identify those things.”Tweet
How to maintain a relationship with a mentor
There are no set rules for having a mentor, which means you can tailor the relationship to your professional needs. If you identify your mentor through a more formal means — say, through your company’s established mentorship program — you can have structured monthly meetings where you come prepared to talk shop. But if your mentor connection is more informal, the relationship can be more free-flowing, with meetings scheduled as issues arise. “As the mentee, use their time wisely,” advises Scivicque. “Make sure that you are going with specific topics that you’d like to discuss so it’s a fruitful conversation.”
And remember, you aren’t the only one benefitting from your relationship. Mentors are strengthening their professional skills, too, by giving advice and support. “It’s a two-way relationship,” says Scivicque, “and you both are helping each other.”