No matter where you are in your career, working with a mentor to guide you along the way can give you an advantage over those who do not partner with an experienced professional. In today’s on-the-go, competitive workplace, a mentor can play a significant role in how high you can climb the proverbial career ladder. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To work with a mentor, we must first understand the meaning of mentorship and the roles and responsibilities that follow.
A mentor is someone who shares their wisdom, advice, and feedback. They help with career advancement, offer professional development strategies, and help you build your network. Ultimately, mentors facilitate action that has a positive effect on your career
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
~ Oprah Winfrey
In Greek mythology, ‘Mentor’ was the trusted advisor to Odysseus. The term mentor
comes from the book, Les Aventures de Telemaque, by François Fénelon. Telemaque
was Odysseus’ brother, and the main character is Mentor. The book, which dates from 1699, gave us the modern use of the term mentor: one with wisdom and experience
A mentor is often someone we look up to and want to emulate. He or she has received success in their career. A mentorship often evolves from a previous relationship such as professors, former bosses, or a leader you have come to know specific to your career. Some businesses have mentorship programs in place based on the idea of matching new employees with more experienced staff, who will advise and provide insight. Be sure to ask your organization if such a program exists.
Mentoring is typically performed at no cost, and the mentorship schedule and structure is generally agreed upon by the mentee and mentor. Mentorships can range from six months to a year, meeting once a month or whatever is decided between the mentor and mentee. With the understanding and appreciation of the time and effort your mentor is gifting you, you will want to ensure you are committed to the process by keeping flexibility, goals, and objectives top of mind.
So, how do you find the right mentor? You can begin by following these proven steps to success.
Put Yourself Out There
A sure fire way to advance in your career is to make networking a priority. By so doing, you will open yourself up to many opportunities such as making new acquaintances, learning more about yourself, and investing in your career. Become a member of a professional organization that aligns with your career goals. This is an ideal way to mix and mingle with leaders in your field, build lasting relationships, and find a potential mentor.
Know Your Goals
Mentorship should never be taken for granted. The process is not solely about you. When a mentor agrees to give their valuable time and expertise to help you succeed, you must be prepared to do the work. Create a list of goals you would like to accomplish with your mentor. Perhaps you have certain skills that can be improved upon like how to communicate more assertively, how to better manage people, or how to gain respect from my boss and co-workers. Maybe it is receiving advice on how to map out a path to a promotion or new job title or even learning the “politics” for career success. Whatever your goals, they should be clearly defined with a timeline, so you and your mentor have a direction of what you’d like to achieve.
Reach Out to an Established Relationship
When seeking a mentor, ask someone with whom you have developed a good relationship. It is poor form to ask someone out of the blue to mentor you when he or she does not know you well. When you take the time to get to know someone, you will see qualities in him or her and experiences in their career that appeal to you. When you have an existing relationship with a leader, it is much easier to ask them for professional support. Often, they will feel flattered and will want to make the time to help you succeed in your career.
Be Open to Feedback
As the saying goes: “Honesty is the best policy.” To be all-in with the mentorship process, you must prepare yourself to receive feedback that may be difficult to hear. Remind yourself the reason for wanting a mentor: to advance in your career. Your mentor’s objective is to help you grow and succeed. Do not take the tough talks personally. Rather, look at the instruction as opportunities to learn and grow.
Show Respect and Gratitude
Remind yourself your mentor has lots of responsibilities to tend to other than offering you professional support. Show respect and appreciation by not being too demanding of their time. Go the extra mile with kindness and gratitude. A handwritten note of thanks or an offer to make a professional introduction on his/her behalf that would be of value to him/her are thoughtful ways to extend your appreciation. Do not feel obliged to purchase gifts for him/her. You mentor does not expect any payback other than your respect and committing yourself to the work.
Pay It Forward
Among the best lessons you can take away from your mentorship is to pay it forward. Share your wealth of knowledge with another to help him or her succeed in their career. Not only will you be paying the biggest compliment to your mentor, but you will be keep the cycle for professional growth going for others.
About the Author:
Nancy Schnoebelen Imbs is an empowering professional development consultant, dynamic motivational speaker