Finding and working with a trusted mentor will make a positive impact on your career, both short and long term. Mentors can help with career decisions, professional development and work-life balance. The right mentor can bring clarity to tough choices and open the mentee’s mind to options and possibilities. As said by Opera Winfrey, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
Mentoring relationship can develop organically. You may work with someone you get along with and admire, and with whom you share professional interests. You may start going to them to kick around ideas, or for counsel on a specific topic. Over time, the relationship develops and it’s clear you have a go-to person.
Other times, you may choose to seek out a mentor. If this is your goal, think about people in and outside of your organization whom you admire, respect and want to be like. Ideally, you will have commonalities such as background, skills and interests, or even personality type. You can start by asking them to meet for coffee and take it from there. However you come to find your mentor, make sure it’s someone you deeply respect and in at least one way, aspire to be like.
There is work that goes into developing this type of relationship, but it’s worth it. Here’s why:
1. You’ll get career guidance.
A positive relationship with an inspiring mentor can help you create your career. Ideally, they will know your industry and be a guide as you navigate your steps and opportunities. I met my first mentor when I was just out of college. He fell into my life and was not someone I had to seek out. I was very green and I had no career path. I worked for him for a year until he pushed me out of my comfort area and encouraged me to find something better. He coached me on the staffing world and convinced me to apply to WinterWyman. My mentor has been monumental in my professional career and we still talk regularly.
2. You’ll have a personal cheerleader.
A mentor may be one of your biggest fans! There are times in everyone’s career when they second-guess what they’re doing, or if they’re good at what they do. A mentor can help you snap out of that rut and guide you to see your real worth and value. They can pump you up when things are tough, and cheer you on and validate you when you are heading in a positive direction. Hearing props from someone who has been there and whom you respect means a lot. Whenever I start to second guess myself, I call my mentor and he talks me off the ledge; he reminds me I am great at what I do.
3. You’ll have access to a greater network.
When you have a mentor who has been at it for a while, they will likely have an extensive network. If you are looking for new opportunities and your relationship is solid, they’ll want to make introductions. A good mentor will do anything they can to help you find success, including exposing you to influential people.
4. You’ll be put to the challenge.
A talented and trusted mentor will challenge you. They will ask you tough questions and help you look at yourself in ways you may not want to look. If they notice opportunities for change, they will tell you in a productive and positive way – with an end goal of helping you be your best, professional self. Constructive feedback from someone you trust and admire, someone you know is looking out for your best interest, always means more.
Be good to your mentor. Show appreciation. Stay connected. Treat the relationship as you would any important one in your life. And, prepare yourself and be open to being someone’s mentor someday!
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