If you are the strong, career-minded type then you might think you don’t need a career coach or business mentor. The truth is, however, that from time to time we all need a little bit of objective advice. For some of us, the only hope we have of navigating our way through the tricks and turns of a job is to take our questions and concerns to a mentor. For others, access to strong mentorship support can help us to consider career-related matters in a new light.
Some organisations have well-established mentoring programs that support all new employees. If you are not lucky enough too work somewhere there are such mentoring programs, you will still find mentorship helpful and should still seek it. We explain about the benefits of mentorship and give you some ideas about finding the perfect career mentor for you.
1. A job mentor can offer you many things
Life would be boring if we never met with challenges at work but when those challenges inevitably rear their heads, life can be a bit uncomfortable if we don’t have anyone to help us overcome them. When things get tricky, or even when you need a bit of a push to take on the next challenge, a job mentor can fulfil a number of really useful and supportive roles. A job mentor can:
- offer you a new perspective on a situation
- give you the confidence to make tricky decisions
- make sure you understand all the implications of a given situation
- find further, internal or external support should you need it
- be a sounding board for ideas you might not want to express to a manager
- give you the push you need to step into new challenges
2. A job mentorship is good for your organisation
If your organisation doesn’t have established mentoring programs, you might find yourself in the position of having to persuade your bosses that mentorship is a good idea. It will be relatively easy to explain how a mentor/mentee relationship will help you but you should also be ready to point out why mentorship is good for the organisation as a whole. We have some thoughts to help.
- Collaborative groups are successful groups and mentoring as well as receiving mentorship is a great way to build collaboration
- Mentoring programs allow for inter-department relationships to develop naturally
- Colleagues who have offered mentor services often have a great handle on possible system and organisational improvements
- Asking a colleague to mentor someone is a statement of recognition and respect, two aspects that are very important to a happy and effective organisation
3. The right mentor is out there
Because good mentorship depends on experience and knowledge, the chances are that your job mentor will be someone who has a more senior job role than you. However, that does not mean that they are necessarily older. If you are at an older age and looking for a mentor for a certain goal, chances are that your will find someone with the knowledge that is younger than you, but it does not mean you cannot learn from him or her. Same goes for personal mentors when you look in the right places. If your organisation has an established mentoring program, you may not get a choice of job mentor but, if you do, take your time in your choice and consider the following aspects.
- Mentoring means giving up time and the busiest people in an organisation might not be the ones who are the most available
- If you have a specific career path in mind it would pay to gain mentorship from someone who has experience in relevant areas to act as a career mentor
- We all need challenge to achieve our best and the right mentor for you will not be the person who agrees with everything you say
- Geographic location can be important because mentorship is far more effective when it is face-to-face for a good portion of the time
- Personality does matter. Whilst you don’t want someone who thinks exactly like you as a mentor, the mentoring relationship will be helped if you can communicate on the same wavelength
- If you choose your boss as your mentor you may limit your exposure to different members of your company team
- The right mentor might not be someone in your organisation (see ‘other ways to find a mentor’ below)
4. A mentor is about building relationships
Finding a mentor is not always an easy task. The key is to build relationships. A mentoring relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be an initially formal relationship. For some people a natural mentor emerges after spending time working with an organisation, through networking groups or business associations. You put yourself out there and get to know them, and if they reciprocate with equal interest, then you keep going. This relationship would be built like any other. Paradoxically, many mentors feel that if you have to ask for them to be a mentor, they’re probably not the right person.
If this doesn’t happen for you and you don’t work somewhere that already has a mentoring program, your first step will be to talk to your boss to ask for suggestions, or if you have a mentor in mind, an introduction. Acting as somebody’s mentor requires a significant commitment and it is a good idea to bear this in mind when approaching a potential mentor; be understanding if someone doesn’t feel that they have the time or capacity to take on the task. Rather than springing the idea on a potential mentor, it could help to broach the subject in an email or phone call prior to meeting them.
5. It will encourage you to build your networks
You won’t necessarily find the best mentor for you within your own organisation. Small businesses or those with a high proportion of team members to management might find it difficult to meet everyone’s mentoring needs, so don’t be afraid to consider finding a career mentor outside your organisation. We have a few ideas about how you might do this.
- Look at business stakeholders who are not directly involved in the running of the business
- Ask colleagues if they have worked with people whom they would recommend as mentors or who have experience in your field of interest
- Use your LinkedIn network to gain mentorship from people you have been following or whose contributions you admire
- Consider your personal network and look for people whose experience you could learn from
Whoever you choose for your mentor, it is important to remember that any mentoring programs or mentor relationships are only as good as the amount of commitment you are prepared to make to them. Mentoring works well when it is an exchange of ideas but it also requires a listening attitude and a ‘can do’ approach from the mentee. Whilst you are looking for your perfect mentor, don’t stop thinking about your future. Take a look at our range of accessible and flexible online courses and be ready to discuss your ideas when you do find mentor you are looking for.
Fi is a professional copywriter based in Devon, England. She specialises in education, careers, travel and outdoor writing and is the co-author of the popular daily outdoor blog 'Two Blondes Walking'. Fi has written three children's books and, when she isn't writing, Fi loves to gather inspiration from long walks, early morning sea swims and winter wild camps.