Why You Need a Mentor
One of the most significant keys to my professional success was finding a mentor. I was able to learn both from their successes and mistakes, and through their teaching, they were able to help steer me in the direction I wanted to go. The sooner in your career you find one, the better off you will be.
Those without mentors, however, have to trailblaze their own way. They have no map, no compass, and must learn as they go. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a mentor can provide a streamlined route to your professional goals. They can teach you how they achieved their goals and made decisions, how to avoid some missteps, and how to reach for certain accomplishments. By gaining this knowledge, you can accelerate growth in your career.
Finding a Mentor
So you know why you want a mentor; now the question is who. It can be tough to find the right person. Your search may even take a while, which is ok. You want a mentor whose career path you can try to mirror, someone in a position you hope to someday see yourself in. Here are some important elements to think on:
- What kind of perspective do you need?
For a lot of women, it is helpful to find a female mentor. Because of shared experiences and perspectives, other women can help women in a unique way men can’t. Men don’t always have the same issues and questions. That goes the other way as well, as it may be helpful for men to have male mentors. This isn’t cut and dry, though. I have had mentors of both genders, and both have helped me in different ways I am very thankful for.
- Don’t wait for the one perfect person.
You don’t have to find one perfect mentor. Instead, find a few people who all have elements of what you are looking for and channel those specific traits from each. If someone balances work and family well, talk to them about how they do that. If someone else is really good at problem solving, talk to them as well. And if a third person knows how to work with a lot of different people and has great people skills, learn from them too.
- Know what you want to learn.
Before you go around asking your superiors to be your mentor, have a very clear picture of what you are looking for. Asking the wrong person will waste everyone’s time. Write down your relevant career goals, as well as desired personality traits. A mentor who thinks the same way as you and has a similar code of ethics is key. You may find someone who is positionally where you want to be, but may have had a less-than-moral way of getting there. Find someone who has gotten where you want to go in a way you would feel comfortable emulating.
- Be open-minded.
Don’t limit yourself, and be open to many different people. The best mentor for you may not be someone you would have initially gravitated towards. Look and listen to a variety of people and be receptive to the possibility of learning from any of them. The best fit may surprise you.
- Can you get along with them?
Finally, find someone who interests you. You will be spending a lot of time with this person, so look for someone you could see yourself having a professional relationship with for many years.
Being a Good Mentee
Another way to ensure a good mentor-mentee relationship is to be someone who is enjoyable to mentor. Be eager to learn, volunteer to help, participate in all meetings and staff events, even the optional ones. Lastly, be good at what you do. I know it’s easier said than done, but being someone who can show both their potential and interest in their career makes for a fun person to mentor. Remember, your mentor is doing you a favor; make it worth their time and efforts as well.
Establishing a relationship with your mentor is like opening an encyclopedia to your future. You can get the answers to most, if not all, of your questions from someone who has been there and done that. Finding a mentor was the best thing I did for my career. Take the time to search for the right person, or people, for you. You won’t regret it.
Also published on Medium.