The days of apprenticeship are mostly behind us but the principle behind this age-old career path is still a relevant one. Are you looking to advance your career? Get a mentor as soon as possible! Mentors shape a lot of successful careers in a variety of ways.
Why Mentors Are Beneficial:
1. Honest Feedback: In order for you to succeed you’ll need someone you can go to for purely honest feedback. Mentors—unlike coworkers, friends, or family members—don’t have a vested interest in sparing your feelings. If you need a wake up call, your mentor will be there to give it to you. With this kind of honest feedback at your side you’ll learn quickly how to avoid future career mistakes and navigate hurdles along the way.
2. Guide Through New Roads: A good mentor will have experience you don’t have. Would you rely on your own instincts when hiking to navigate a trail you’ve never been on? Of course you wouldn’t! Think of a good mentor like a good navigation system, they can help you navigate new-to-you roads so you’re less likely to stumble.
3. Answers you Trust: At a certain point you’ll realize that asking your friends or parents for advice on problems you have in your career isn’t the best idea. Chances are they don’t have the same job or even work in the same industry that you do. When you’re looking for answers to a problem, wouldn’t you love to go to someone who is an expert in your field? Of course you would, and that’s why a good mentor can really save you from anxiety-fraught decision-making processes throughout your career.
4. Solid Connection: When you have a solid relationship with your mentor, both of your professional networks will grow. When they’re looking for innovative thinkers or up and coming ideas, they’ll come to you. When you’re looking for sage advice or upward opportunities, you’ll go to them. This mutual connection will be great for your professional network and it can really elevate your career.
Yes, mentors can make big changes to your career path. Getting solid advice and having a solid relationship with an expert within your professional network can be incredibly useful. However, these benefits to your career will only happen if you find a good mentor.
What Makes a Good Mentor
1. Constructive Feedback > Praise: If you’re looking for a leader in your industry to rant and rave about how wonderful you are and all of the great things you’re doing, you’re not looking for a good mentor. A good mentor is the kind of person who will give you honest, constructive feedback as opposed to pure praise or pure criticism. If their evaluation of how you’re doing has no constructive aspects or advice, they aren’t making a valuable impact on your career.
2. Communication is Key: Frank, honest conversations are a key component of a good mentor relationship. If you don’t feel like you can share your career problems with them or they don’t feel like they can be honest with you, there’s really no point in having a mentor. A good mentor will work off of the clear lines of communication that you establish and try to maintain a frank honesty that can accelerate your career.
3. Beneficial for Both: Sure, you want a good mentor to contribute to your career but if you aren’t providing any value to the relationship, why would anyone want to be your mentor? In order to have a good mentor you need to be a good mentee. This means that you provide some kind of value to their career through further career connections, opportunities, or a skill set that they’re trying to learn.
4. Emulate: When you’re trying to find a good mentor you should always look for someone whose career you want to emulate. If you don’t respect what they do or who they are you won’t take their advice seriously. In order to experience the full benefits of having a good mentor in your life, they’ll need to be someone who has a career that you’d like to emulate.
Good mentors don’t just grow on trees and some professionals have a hard time finding one. You’re looking for a variety of qualities but you’re also looking for their willingness to play that role in your career. So, where do you find a good mentor?
Where to Find a Good Mentor:
1. Mentorship Programs: If you’re lucky your company may have an established mentorship program that you can take advantage of. Many corporations have seen the benefits of mentorship and offer specialized programs that you can sign up for through your HR Department. If you’re currently looking for a new job and this sounds like something you’d like to have, look for organizations that list it as a benefit and apply there!
2. Tap Your Network: Whether your professional network is expansive or relatively small you should look for a mentor through your already established professional connections. Through your university, past coworkers, or networking events, you’ve made connections within your industry that could lead to the introduction of your perfect mentor. You may already know the right person!
3. LinkedIn: If your current professional network is a dead end you can start connecting to potential mentors through LinkedIn. This professionals-only website is made for introductions between people in the same industry who share the same interests. If you take this approach when looking for a good mentor, you should be cautious and develop relationships slowly. Asking someone you don’t know to add you on LinkedIn AND become your mentor in one fell swoop is a sure fire way to creep out some well established professionals in your industry.
4. Mentor Someone: A great way to meet a good mentor is to become a mentor yourself! If you have a bit of experience under your belt, look for local business associations with established mentorship programs and offer your skills. Once you become a mentor you’ll see how the connections can flourish and your mentee may be able to introduce you to a mentor of your own.
Successful careers, like successful cities, are not built by one person’s efforts. If you’re relying on yourself or the advice of friends and family who don’t have relevant experience, you may not be able to navigate your way through a variety of problems without tripping and falling. Instead, find a good mentor and rely on their experience and wisdom to help guide you through a career they’ve already navigated. You’ll find yourself on a fast track to success in no time with a good mentor by your side!