Could Your Career Benefit from Having a Mentor

Posted by Patra Frame

MentorMentor relationships offer many professionals a better, faster way to increase their career success. Consider working with a mentor as part of your career development.

Some companies provide formal mentoring relationships. Most such relationships are informal. Mentoring relationships mostly run from a month or two to 6-9 months. Few are longer than a year. Your career can benefit from working with mentors at every stage. You can also benefit from mentoring others.

Classic mentoring relationships involve a more experienced person who functions as a coach and teacher. There are now an increasing variety of other mentoring relationships which may be of interest to you. These include working with mentors who are only one step further along the career path, niche mentors who offer one critical skill expertise, or collaborative peer groups. There are also organizations which match transitioning military to mentors.

The mentoring relationship has many possible functions:

  • Enhance skill and intellectual development
  • Facilitate entry and advancement in the work arena
  • Expand horizons and perspectives
  • Provide values, customs, resources, and professional connections
  • Model professional or managerial role
  • Advise, give moral support, and build confidence
  • Furnish a relatively objective assessment of strengths and weaknesses

You should consider seeking out a mentor when you are looking at your future goals and have decided to grow but want support to do so. Before you seek out a mentor, think about your side of the bargain. Do you have:

  • The desire to learn and grow professionally,
  • The ability to take risks,
  • Commitment to the process and time for it,
  • Intelligence plus common sense,
  • Willingness to create goals, accept personal responsibility, listen, and follow through?

Finding A Mentor

While some companies have formal mentoring programs as part of their professional development efforts, so do some professional organizations. Most of us find a mentor on our own though our professional network. Before you think about asking someone to be a mentor, you need to assess what you want from a mentor.

  • Are you looking for information and support to get that elusive promotion?
  • To learn new skills or how to change career roles?
  • To develop better interpersonal skills?  Or learn a new technology or other skill?
  • Seeking a path into management?

Understanding your goal in selecting a mentor ensures you are approaching the right people.

Mentors may be in your current company, in professional or volunteer organizations you belong to, and in career fields that are the same or different. Normally you will start with people you already know at least a little. If you are going through a professional organization or a veteran mentoring program, you may pair with someone new. Think about the people you know, go through your LinkedIn connections, ask trusted advisers or great past bosses for ideas, and make a list of potential mentors.

Making the Ask

Contact the most preferred name on your list first and work through others as needed. Many people are happy to help, but some may be too busy at this moment or feel unqualified.

Plan the call carefully:

  • What specifically are you asking for? What is your goal for the mentoring and your preferred timeframe? Why do you want such assistance to achieve your goal?  The ask will be different for a niche mentor on a technical skill than for a senior person who can help you become an effective manager.
  • Why are you asking this specific person? Be as specific as possible rather than effusive or cliched. If this person has been recommended, tell them who and why.
  • Offer to send your goals in writing and allow time before you expect a response. The best mentors often will not want to commit without careful thought.

One does not pay a mentor. Your progress, your willingness to ‘pay it forward’ , and the desire of the person to help others succeed, is the currency of mentoring.

Developing An Effective Mentoring Relationship

A mentoring relationship is only effective if there is trust and you are open to new ideas and interested in growing personally and professionally. These are your basic responsibilities:

  • Respect for the mentor’s time and attention
  • Being honest throughout the relationship
  • Assessing your own individual needs and ask for specific help, advice, or support
  • Developing a plan for the work and coordinating it with the mentor
  • Taking the initiative in skill development
  • Being proactive in career development
  • Actively participating, asking questions, follow through
  • Taking full advantage of assistance offered
  • Maintaining confidentiality

You will need to communicate clearly and effectively with your mentor as you set up the relationship and throughout its duration.

Working with mentors throughout your career can add immeasurable value to your future and help you achieve your goals. These relationships can be incredibly powerful and rewarding, whether you are the mentor or the mentee. What aspect of your career could benefit from a mentor relationship?



This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 06, 2017 8:30 am

2 thoughts on “Could Your Career Benefit from Having a Mentor”

  1. I am 60 (old school Admin) and trying to obtain Sec+. Could use some help or pointers besides read and study the Objectives. I have ADHD and bad at testing. I need to obtain this to keep employment. Can anyone help?

    1. Frank, perfect illustration of what a niche mentor could help with – find someone you know who already has Sec+ and ask if they would be willing to help you prepare for the test. Might even want to work with two people on this. Additionally, if you have a formal ADHD diagnosis, you may want to ask the testing provider for an accommodation to take the test if there is something reasonable that would help you.

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