Want a Career Boost? Find a Mentor
Athletes have coaches to boost their performance. Children have parents and grandparents to help them through life. And professionals? They have mentors to provide career guidance and support.
When it comes to career development, mentorship has much to offer. Regardless of your industry, a mentor – defined by Oxford Dictionary as “an experienced and trusted advisor” – can be a valuable source of insight and external perspective. For example, a mentor can open your eyes to new opportunities, provide support when you’re struggling in the workplace and help you avoid the mistakes that they have made before you.
It’s important to note than mentorship is not only for ‘young’ professionals – there is much to be gained from working with a mentor at all stages of your career. Indeed, more than 90% of CEOs and senior executives in a Stanford Graduate School of Business survey indicated that they like receiving coaching and leadership advice.
5 tips for successful mentorship
What mentorship looks like can vary greatly depending on the needs, expectations and situation of both you and your mentor. However, it typically involves meeting up or speaking on a somewhat regular basis, with a focus on topics that are relevant to your career development.
Here are five suggestions for how to make the most of this valuable opportunity.
- Start by asking – You won’t find a mentor if you don’t ask, so you need to be proactive. Yes, it may be intimidating to approach someone
with a request to be your mentor, but the rewards are well worth it when you find the right person. Keep in mind that not everyone will say yes.
If someone turns down your request, simply respect that they have their own reason for this and move on.
- Do your homework – A mentorship relationship is not about finding a coffee buddy. While you may end up meeting over coffees, what
you’re aiming to get out of the relationship is thoughtful guidance and unique perspectives, not idle chatter. To reflect the importance of this
mentorship, you need to show that you are serious by researching the individual’s background/experience and identifying why it is relevant to you
(i.e. why are you asking him/her in particular?).
- Have a plan – What do you want to get out of this mentorship? If your request is simply an open-ended “will you be my mentor?”, it
will be difficult for the prospective mentor to know how they can help you and where to start. Try to identify some broad objectives, without making
them too specific. For example, you might look to a mentor for advice on how to chart your career path towards a long-term goal, or for creative
ideas on how to scale up your growing business.
- Show your gratitude – Whether you meet once a week or only twice per year, your mentor is making an effort to support your career
development, so you must be sure to say thank you. There are many ways to show your gratitude in a respectful and professional manner, such as
ensuring you are always punctual for meetings or sending a written note after meetings to say how you benefited from the discussion. Even if your
formal mentorship relationship ends at some point, it can still be nice to update your former mentor from time to time about how your career is
- Don’t stop at one – Different mentors can play different roles in helping you move forward in your career. Someone who is a year or two ahead of you on the same career path can provide
insight into the best way to navigate your short-term situation. On the other hand, a mentor with more or unique experience under their belt can
provide guidance on bigger-picture issues. In this case, it’s not necessary for them to be in the same industry as you. Indeed, someone who is
supporting you from an outsider’s perspective may be able to provide guidance free from industry-specific biases.
Adding a mentor to your team
Career success isn’t something that’s handed to you on a platter – you need to work for it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get help along the way.
Whatever your professional ambitions, finding a mentor is a great way to give your career a boost. From sage advice to moral support, a mentor can contribute significantly to the team effort – along with your family and friends – as you strive to build a successful career.