January is National Mentoring Month. 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.
Identifying the right individual (or individuals) to provide mentoring support is crucial; we look at what you should consider before making your all-important choice.
Firstly, you need to determine what you want to achieve from your mentoring relationship and set yourself some clear and tangible goals of where you want to be in, for example, the next year, three years and five years. A good mentor will want to work with you to achieve a clear objective and as part of the exercise you will need to understand what support you need from them – this will help you focus your search and enable you to narrow down the key criteria to best identify someone suitable to your circumstances.
Next, you need to give consideration to where you can find your potential mentor. It could 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. It is essential that you spend time researching all the options available before making your approach.
Your chosen mentor must someone that you trust as this is fundamental to you being able to build a successful relationship from the outset; 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.
Your mentor should make you feel comfortable and be someone that you can build a rapport with. They are very likely to have a career you admire – not only in relation to what they have achieved but also the route they have taken to reach their level. It is important to spend some time finding out about how your potential mentor likes to work and ensure they are prepared to give honest and constructive feedback in way that you will find supportive and motivational.
Many individuals become mentors as they want to give something back but remember that they want and need to get something from the relationship as well. Successful mentoring is very much two-way so consider what you can bring and offer in return – passion, enthusiasm and a keenness to learn will all contribute to a positive and successful partnership.
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 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 workplace.
Their advice is free.
They offer you a different perspective.
They are there to provide you with support.
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