Finding and working with a mentor can help you achieve short and long-term career goals. Mentors can be beneficial at any stage in your career whether you are pursuing an undergraduate degree, entering the workforce for the first time or a seasoned professional looking to continue growing in your field. In this article, we will discuss what a mentor is, how to find one and how to get the most out of your mentorship.
What is a professional mentor?
A mentor is an individual with extensive professional experience that fosters the development and growth of a less experienced individual. While a mentor might offer tools, advice and training, it is up to the mentee to absorb and apply their teachings on a regular basis. By offering long-term support, a mentor enables the mentee to grow toward their potential through challenging tasks, advice and encouragement.
Mentors and mentees often meet up on a regular basis (weekly, monthly or as needed). With the help of modern technology, other mentors and mentees might carry out their relationship via video chat, telecommuting and online messaging.
How to find a good mentor
Every mentor-mentee relationship is unique based on both party’s goals, needs and levels of expertise. Before starting your search, you should take some time to identify what you hope to gain from your mentor. Here are several considerations to get you started:
- What are your short-term goals?
- What are your long-term goals?
- What are your professional strengths and weaknesses?
- What expectations do you have of your mentor?
- What do you have to offer in the relationship?
Related: How To Find a Mentor
If you find a mentor that isn’t a good fit, it is perfectly acceptable to keep them as a professional contact and continue searching. Trial and error is a part of the process. Here are several steps you should consider when searching for a mentor:
1. Prioritize your mentorship needs
While it may seem tempting to find a mentor that appears wealthy or successful by some measure, you should prioritize finding someone with the skills and qualities you wish to emulate. Those skills and qualities should be relevant to your long-term career goals. For example, if you hope to own your own business someday, you should look for a long-time business owner with entrepreneurial skills who is also persistent with strong leadership abilities.
2. Counteract your weaknesses
Taking time to understand your strengths and areas for improvement ahead of time can help you identify mentors that can complement them. For example, if you know it would be beneficial to develop your public speaking skills, it might be a good option to identify a mentor who has experience and strengths in this area.
3. Search for mentors in all settings
While you can certainly find a mentor in your workplace, you should also keep your options open to other people that inspire you. These can be community leaders, small business owners, family friends and more. Connect with people whose skills, qualities or success you hope to achieve in your own life.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask
While it might seem intimidating to ask a successful person with a busy schedule to be your mentor, these people are often happy and willing to help others achieve their goals. Be respectful of their time by doing your research and identifying your expectations of the relationships. Ask if you can buy them lunch or a cup of coffee to determine if it would be a good fit and if they have the time to be a mentor.
5. Trust your instincts
You might meet up with your potential mentor once or twice on a trial basis to see if there is a good connection. Remember, it is valuable to learn from people who do not necessarily share your strengths, weaknesses and communication style. You should, however, find someone that supports and inspires you with their approach to leadership and teaching.
The benefits of mentorship
Both parties should benefit from a healthy mentor-mentee relationship. The mentor can improve their teaching and leadership skills and gain personal satisfaction by helping others achieve their personal career goals. Mentees also stand to gain several professional benefits from having a mentor:
Gaining leadership skills
Leadership skills allow you to take ownership of a team, project or process by providing direction and making decisions. Leadership skills are valuable in any industry at every experience level. Some of these skills include:
- Time management
- Active listening
- Positivity and encouragement
These are just a few leadership skills you can gain from a mentor. The more of these skills you possess, the greater your potential for growth.
With their experience, expertise and time in a particular industry, mentors often have an expansive network of friends and colleagues. This is essential for the mentee to provide opportunities for practicing skills, meeting new people or even getting a new job.
With years of experience and knowledge in the industry, mentors can offer perspectives that a mentee may never have considered. Their perspectives can help mentees develop new strategies and problem-solving methods to achieve career goals.
Getting expert advice
Ideally, your mentor has extensive experience handling many different issues that occur in the workplace. As a mentee, you can gain advice and perspective from a professional who has successfully navigated complex problems you experience at work. While making the decisions are ultimately up to you, gaining advice can be helpful for making good choices.
Acquiring professional relationships
Although some mentor-mentee relationships only last a few months or years, long-lasting ones can change the trajectory of your career. With a mentor, you have the resources and consistency necessary to succeed as your responsibilities change and your roles advance.
Confidence is an intangible asset that's important as a business leader. With advice and encouragement from your mentor, you can gain the confidence you need to stand behind your decisions and encourage others around you.
The responsibilities of a mentee
The workload of the mentor-mentee relationship shouldn't fall squarely on the shoulders of the mentor. While the mentor should make themselves available for advice and consultation, the mentee also has a set of responsibilities. With these responsibilities, a mentee can get the most out of their mentoring relationship.
Be a good listener
One of the most important responsibilities of being a mentor is to practice active listening. This means you should always be open to advice, as well as both positive and critical feedback. Great mentors aren't always cheerleaders—they'll tell you your areas for improvement with supporting resources. It's up to you to get the most out of their advice.
Be prompt and consistent
As the mentee, it's up to you to communicate with your mentor regularly. If you schedule a video chat, a phone call or a meeting, show up early. Not only is this a professional practice, it is also a kindness by respecting your mentor’s valuable time.
Learn and prepare
Take time to practice your mentor’s instruction and prepare for future meetings. While a mentor can direct you towards success with advice and support, learning and growing is something that you should do on your own by putting their teaching into practice. The more you prepare and learn, the more you can get out of your relationship with your mentor.
Discuss your future
Be upfront about your career goals and check in on your status towards them consistently with your mentor. This will help establish expectations, allow you and your mentor to see how you are progressing and what you should focus on improving.
Follow up on your conversations
Consider keeping a detailed log of your conversations with your mentor. This allows you to follow up on conversations and attend to the short and long-term goals outlined in your meetings.
Offering gratitude for your mentor is important for maintaining a healthy, long-term mentor-mentee relationship. Even a short, professional thank you note can show how much you appreciate their advice and guidance.
With a strong work ethic, realistic expectations and a clearly defined set of professional goals, mentoring can be an important aid to achieving success. Even if you don't see the results right away, the wisdom, advice and suggestions you receive can guide you years into the future.