Here’s a fact: you can’t achieve your career objectives alone. For women who like to be in control, that can be a hard fact to accept. The reality is that as you climb the career ladder you will need people along the way who you can go to for help and who will act as your ally. A mentor can be that person. Mentorship is a valuable arrangement that allows the mentee to get advice, guidance, and leadership, while the mentor gets the satisfaction of aiding someone junior to them in their career. In fact, according to Forbes, mentees are promoted five times more often than those without mentors. Yet, only 37% of professionals have a mentor.
Mentorship can be as formal or informal as you make it. It could be a senior colleague who you bond with and go to for advice from time to time or a relationship you’ve entered into more intentionally with the goal of developing your career. If you’re interested in the latter, identifying your goals and tracking your progress will be important for the relationship’s success.
Advantages of Mentorship
Mentorship provides a sounding board
One of the best parts of mentorship is having someone you can run your ideas by and receive advice from. Whether it’s a tactical or strategic decision in your job or questions about your larger career goals, your mentor is someone who you can talk to before you make a decision and get the benefit of their expertise. They may be able to provide a viewpoint that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. There are projects and situations you will encounter in which you might not know the right approach to take; having another source of feedback can help you approach your decisions with confidence. For example, let’s say you’re giving a big presentation to the leadership team at your job. Your mentor may be able to provide pointers and give you feedback about the presentation. While receiving advice from them can be critical to your career, it shouldn’t replace the valuable feedback and instruction you get from a manager.
Your mentor can give you constructive criticism
Depending on your role, you may be used to getting constructive feedback. If not, your mentor can be a great source for this feedback. No matter how great you are at your job, you’re not doing everything perfectly, and getting and listening to feedback is the only way that you will grow. A sign of career stagnation is that you’re no longer improving your skills. Most likely, your mentor is someone who’s worked in your role before or worked on similar projects and will be able to help you elevate your work skills.
Your mentor can serve as a reference
Another benefit of having a mentor is that he or she can serve as a reference when you need one. If your mentor-mentee relationship is a quality one, your mentor should be intimately familiar with your capabilities, your strengths, and even your weaknesses. There’s no better person to speak for you when you apply for a new job or who can recommend you to a client. When you apply for a job, companies often ask for multiple references, and your mentor should be one of them. As a courtesy, ask your mentor before listing him or her as a reference, so they’ll be prepared for a call from a potential job or client. Another advantage of using a mentor as a reference is that you know that they will speak favorably about you because they are invested in your success.
Having a mentor can develop your leadership skills
Ideally, your mentor will be someone who’s in a more senior role than you, and for this reason, your mentor is a great source for learning how to develop your leadership skills. When you meet with your mentor you should ask for advice, but you should also learn about your mentor and the work they do. Learning from their knowledge, experience, and mistakes is likely where you’ll get the biggest benefits from this relationship.
Mentorship provides something to aspire to
Another benefit of having a mentor is that you can get a peek into your future career options. For example, if you’re a marketing specialist and your mentor is a Director of Marketing then you’ll get a good understanding of what it looks like to perform at that level. Not only will it give you insight into what the role is like, but it may prepare you for the challenges you may face at that stage in your career.
All mentors are not created equal. In order to get the most out of a mentoring relationship, it’s important that you seek out a mentor that has qualities that will help you. For example, if your mentor is in a completely different industry, they may not be able to provide advice on how to improve your work. If that’s what you’re looking for, then that might not be the right mentor for you.
Where to Find a Mentor
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of mentorship, you may be wondering where to find a mentor. You’re not limited to having just one mentor; sometimes a combination of mentors can be really beneficial. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself with too many mentors, but look for a few people who may be able to support you with your current goals and challenges.
Where can you find a mentor? The answer is simple: go to the places where your mentor is likely to be:
- Look inside your own organization/office. Somebody that understands your company culture and mission will be able to help you navigate office politics and challenges related to your assigned project.
- Check out your alumni association for any opportunities to expand your network. Doing so will expose you to a large group of professionals at a variety of levels.
- Scan through your connections on LinkedIn. Is there somebody who is currently working in a role that you aspire to be in someday? Reach out to that person and see if you can establish a relationship.
Finally, once you’ve established a successful mentor relationship, remember to lift as you climb and find a mentee.