The New Year often comes with hopes, dreams, and resolutions about the goals we would like to achieve. If you’re looking to get ahead in your career this year and reach new heights of success, having a career mentor can be a valuable accelerator. A career mentor is normally found through someone who has already achieved success in their field, using their expertise to provide strategic guidance. They can help you identify realistic goals, share advice on how to plan for success, and give feedback and support along the way. Mentors can also help you stay motivated and focused on your goals and provide inspiration and encouragement to keep you going. Having a mentor can be the key to unlocking your potential and reaching your career goals.
What is a career mentor?
A career mentor is a professional who has experience and knowledge within your industry or field of interest. They already have certain skills you are hoping to develop and can share their learnings. Mentorship can be more valuable when you have a career goal in mind. Then, a career mentor can provide advice and guidance on a variety of topics, including job search strategies, industry trends and forecasts, networking, leadership development, and more. A mentor can come from a variety of sources, such as the company you work for, an industry association, a professor, or even a friend or family member who has experience and knowledge in the field. There are also online tools where you can find mentors with particular skills and expertise. Career mentorship is meant to provide guidance, feedback, inspiration, and accountability, it doesn’t guarantee you a new job, connections, or solutions to your personal or professional problems.
Benefits of having a career mentor
There are many benefits of having a career mentor, including improved job search strategies and tools, greater access to professional networks, and improved knowledge and understanding of the industry. Here are five other reasons why having a career mentor can be an advantage:
- You’ll have a sounding board for ideas and questions. Feedback is critical to success. Mentors can be an important source of feedback on your goals and challenges, helping you reflect on problems and barriers to then refine your strategies. Having a mentor can also provide a sense of accountability to keep you on track with your goals.
- You’ll have a trusted confidant. Having a mentor can be a source of support and encouragement as you navigate hurdles and tough decisions in your career. Your mentor can help you stay focused on your goals and keep you motivated as you progress.
- You’ll get insight into your industry. Having a mentor can provide you with insider knowledge and insights into the industry, and help you anticipate challenges and make better decisions about your career path. This can help you make connections and build your professional network.
- You’ll have access to new tools and resources. Having a mentor can provide you with new tools and resources that can help you reach your goals. This can include access to publications, research, websites, and professional training.
- You can build your strategic career plan. Having a mentor can help you create a strategic career plan that fits your unique goals and needs. This can help you prioritize and stay focused on what’s important as you progress in your career.
Finding a mentor in the digital age
It’s important to be clear on what you are looking for and what you need before seeking mentorship. It’s helpful to be able to articulate things like your preferred learning style and feedback, desired career milestones, your personality, and values. If you are unsure about how to communicate who you are and what you need help with, consider completing diagnostics like Deeper Signal’s Core Drivers and Core Values. These reports will help you understand your strengths, potential risks, how you typically work and what’s important to you. Then, you can be more strategic about finding a mentor who will help you capitalize on what you’re good at and understand what is holding you back.
These days, many companies offer mentoring programs as part of their employee benefits. This can be a great way to connect with a colleague and get advice and guidance on your career.
There are also a variety of online mentoring platforms where you can find mentors with experience and expertise in a variety of fields. Technology can also provide a source of mentorship. Here at Deeper Signals, we offer online mentorship in the form of Learning Journeys. Powered by the Core Drivers Diagnostic, Learning Journeys are scientifically-designed engaging coaching experiences that help you amplify strengths, close talent gaps, and develop new soft skills.
How to prepare for a mentoring relationship
Before you begin a mentoring commitment, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for the mentoring relationship. Being prepared will help you get the most out of the relationship and make sure your mentor is a good fit for you. Here are some tips for preparing for a mentoring relationship:
- Define and own your goals and expectations. Before you begin looking for a mentor, you’ll want to define your goals and expectations. What areas do you need help with? What are your strengths and areas of expertise? What do you want to change? Remember, change is more likely to occur when it’s your goal, not one someone has given you (learn more here).
- Ensure a strong fit. Finding the right mentor can take time, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to find the right one. Be patient, it’s not something to rush. You can search online, network with others, and attend events to find potential mentors. You can also create a profile on a career mentoring platform to find a mentor.
- Set realistic expectations. Having a career mentor is not a quick fix that will magically solve all your problems. It’s a longer-term relationship that takes time and effort on both sides to be successful. Having expectations that are too high or too low for the relationship can lead to disappointment.
Come to your first mentorship meeting with good questions prepared, or even consider sending them some questions in advance. This will help you make the most of your time together. How did your mentor build and maintain their network? What is the best piece of advice they received? What books or articles do they recommend? Consider both obvious and unconventional questions, see here for examples.
Strategies for developing and maintaining a successful mentoring relationship
As you begin your mentoring relationship, there are a few things you can do to help develop and maintain a successful relationship.
- Be clear and upfront. Before you begin the relationship, make sure you are clear on your goals and expectations for the relationship. This can help you identify the right mentor for you and set clear expectations for the relationship.
- Be clear on your availability. You’re likely juggling a lot as you’re starting out in your career, so it’s important to be realistic about your availability for mentoring. Be open with your mentor about how much time you can dedicate to this relationship and what you hope for in return. Don’t disrespect their time by canceling meetings last minute.
- Be prepared. As you’re building a relationship with your mentor, be prepared to give as well as take. You can help build the relationship and maintain momentum by following up with your mentor and making sure they have what they need from you.
- Be ready to transition. Many mentoring relationships last a long time, but they also come to an end at some point. Be ready to transition the relationship when it’s time and be gracious and appreciative of your mentor as they transition the relationship as well.
Overcoming challenges with your mentor
As you build your mentoring relationship, you may encounter challenges along the way. You may need to find a new mentor at some point, or you may struggle to make time in your schedule for your mentor. Here are some tips for overcoming challenges in your mentoring relationship:
- Keep communication open. If you need to transition to a new mentor for any reason, keep communication open and try to be as considerate and respectful as you can. This can help you end the relationship gracefully and avoid burning any bridges.
- Even if you’re busy with your career and other activities, make time for your mentor. This can help you stay engaged with your mentor and get the most out of the relationship.
- Don’t be afraid to end the relationship. If your relationship isn’t going well for any reason, don’t be afraid to end the mentorship commitment. You can end the relationship respectfully and still maintain your dignity. Learn how to “break up with your mentor” here.
Finding a career mentor might be your ticket to growth and success in the year ahead. Good mentors provide meaningful insights, guidance, feedback, inspiration, encouragement, and accountability. Don’t enter the relationship blind, be clear and intentional about what you are looking for in a mentor, the goals you need help with, what you hope to achieve, and the cadence of your communication.
To make the most of your conversations, come prepared with questions and share concerns and ideas openly. Have an end-goal in mind. If you are no longer learning from your mentor or you don’t have chemistry, there is no point to continue. Treat your mentor with respect and show appreciation. Then, consider paying it forward; there are benefits to becoming a mentor as well. Mentorship can be a powerful way to give back and help others.
Are you ready to give it a try?