A career mentor can bring huge benefits and with their help and support, make a significant contribution to enabling you to achieve your professional goals. Not only can they be a real source of inspiration, but they will also have knowledge, expertise and advice that can help you at every stage of your career.
So how can you go about identifying a career mentor?
It is important that you spend some time determining what it is that you want to achieve from your relationship with a mentor and have some clear goals as to where you want to be in the coming year, three years, five years. As part of the exercise, try to understand what the key areas are that you feel you need support with as this will help you narrow down what you are looking for in a mentor and enable you to best identify someone to suit your circumstances.
Your mentor can be a senior colleague from another department or office location, or it could be someone from outside your place of work such as a former colleague or a respected industry figure. There are several options available to help you find a mentor; your company may run an internal mentoring scheme, or you may feel comfortable approaching somebody in the business direct. Education bodies, training institutions, professional membership bodies and regional and industry networking groups may also operate programmes that can put you in touch with potential members.
A mentor must be someone that you trust; much of what you discuss with them could be confidential and you will also need to ‘open up’ to them about your weaknesses and be honest about what is holding you back. Trust is fundamental to you being able to build a successful relationship from the outset.
Key qualities to look for in your mentor include someone that makes you feel comfortable and you can build a rapport with, someone whose career you admire – not only in what they have achieved but the route they have taken to reach their level – and someone who is prepared to give honest and constructive feedback. And remember, the mentoring relationship is two-way, so consider what you can bring – passion, enthusiasm and a keenness to learn will also contribute to a positive and successful partnership.
A good mentor will tailor their support to each individual based upon their areas of expertise and the support that is required. Typically, mentoring relationships will focus upon career advice, guidance on professional development, encouraging creativity and innovative ways of working, support with a specific project, suggestions on how to build upon a person’s strengths and address any weaknesses as well as learning and development of new skills.
It is important to remember that your mentor is offering to provide you with valuable help and support for free so it is essential that you are committed and open to learning from their advice – even when the feedback might be negative. Go into each session well prepared and with feedback on how you have put into practice what has been discussed in previous meetings.
There’s no set time-frame to how long a mentoring relationship will last; some people may have several mentors over the course of their career, others may work with the same person for many years.
Our top benefits of having a mentor:
They help educate you and support you developing new skills
They provide you with someone to talk to about your career outside of your work place
Their advice is free
They offer you a different perspective
They are there to provide you with support
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