Navigating your career path can sometimes be a daunting experience. Seeking guidance, while sometimes difficult, can be one of the most beneficial things to do in your career. There are many ways to do this including turning to the Internet and reading articles, or enlisting the help of a mentor, which is increasingly popular.
The goal of any mentorship is to help the mentee become successful and in order to do this both parties need to be vulnerable. No matter the industry, a mentor can help you through the peaks and valleys of your career. The great part of having a mentor is that they have likely been through a similar experience and can provide another point of view for you to consider. A mentor can help you venture out of your comfort zone, which is where real growth occurs both personally and career-related.
LinkedIn highlighted the affect that a good mentor can have on your career through its “The Mentor Who Shaped Me” series. In these clips, some of the world’s most successful professionals shared how they got their start and took the time to thank those who go them to where they are today. While having a mentor to help you through your career definitely has its benefits, one of the most challenging parts is figuring out who can serve in this role. Mel Carson, in a piece for Entrepreneur.com, lists five tips for mentor-seeking professionals to find and keep a mentor.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
If you find someone through LinkedIn or even are referred to someone, you will never know if he or she is willing to help you out if you do not ask. After all, the worst that the individual can say is “no,” but if you have the confidence to ask in the first place, you should be confident that his or her answer will be “yes.”
Ask right, and be mentor-worthy.
Building on the first tip, just because you aren’t afraid to ask someone for their guidance, taking a shot in the dark without knowing them can be difficult. If you do not know the person that you are asking to mentor you, have your elevator pitch ready. Tell this person why you are seeking their guidance and be up front about what you want from this “relationship” in terms of advice and time commitment. By explaining this, the person is more likely to agree to a conversation rather than vaguely asking to schedule a 15-minute meeting for coffee.
Choose someone with a different perspective.
It would be easy to find a mentor who thinks exactly how you do, but in reality, this person would not help you progress. By finding someone who has a different view on things your thinking will be challenged and you could learn a different way to do something. According to Carson, “having empathy with others is a huge part of being successful in your career, so even if you don’t agree with someone on any given subject, you’ll find that at least understanding another’s point of view will greatly help your personal brand and also your decision-making process.”
Seek out more than one.
A common misconception when it comes to having a mentor is that you are limited to one at a time. However, that is not the case. By having mentors to help with various aspects of your career you will be able to gain a broad perspective from individuals with different backgrounds and experience. If you just have one mentor, he or she might not have any experience when it comes to a certain part of your career, so by enlisting the help of a “board of advisors” you are sure to cover all the bases.
Try to reciprocate.
As is the case with any relationship, a mentor/mentee relationship should never just be a one-way street. Although you are looking for guidance and advice from your mentor, try to make these experiences worth his or her time as well. Often times a mentee can also teach a mentor something new or about their leadership style. Many mentors will say that they enjoy giving back and having an influence on someone’s future, but as Carson suggests, never assume that this is the case.
Having a mentor, or mentors, can be a very influential part of one’s career. While it is most common to look for a mentor with many years’ experience in a field that you aspire to break into, or are just starting in, your peers and colleagues can also serve as mentors.
As is the case with many things in life, sometimes the hardest part about finding a mentor is setting out to do so. With the availability of resources like LinkedIn to see any common connections within your network creating an introduction to almost anyone you want is possible. By using these five tips you should be able to not only find, but also maintain a relationship with a mentor throughout your professional career.