Why Having a Mentor Could Be Your Career Boost

Why Having a Mentor Could Be Your Career Boost
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 17 August, 2022
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When your career turns out to be anything but what you dreamt it to be, sometimes you can’t help but wonder. Why couldn't life be like the movies when Dumbledore gives you that pep talk after you sacrifice yourself to the evil wizard, or your Fairy Godmother shows up and presents you with everything you need? They may not possess a wand, but having a mentor in the workplace offers less magical but equally rewarding benefits.

Why Is It So Hard to Find a Mentor at Work?

Unfortunately, not every company has a mentorship programme in place. Moreover, having a mentor is a complex social relationship. Chances are you benefit from them more than they will from you.

But there must be a reason why Mr. Miyagi wanted to train Daniel-san inThe Karate Kid, and Mameha took Sayuri under her wing inMemoirs of a Geisha. Mentors derive satisfaction and a sense of purpose from teaching their ways to someone who will continue their legacy. Imagine how fulfilled you would feel if someone saw you as a master in what you do. Or if you were able to advance someone's career by being so influential and compassionate on your own. What a gratifying measure of success!

That said, while it may take some time to find your mentor match, have faith that someone out there can guide you and give you crucial insights to navigate and thrive in your career.

What Is a Career Mentor?

A career mentor is typically someone you aspire to be in the industry. They can be a direct superior or someone with more life experience. In short, you see them as someone from whom you can learn a great deal, whether about the technicalities of your field or about managing office controversies.

A mentor is committed to guiding you in achieving your career goals with conversation, encouragement, and support. Think Yoga, Gandalf, and Professor John Keating. Mentors know how to be objective and provide honest and fair feedback that you can use to address your weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Mentor at Work?

1. Mentors give you hope when you feel unmotivated.

When you can't see the light at the end of your career journey, you may feel bored, complacent, and prone to changing direction. A mentor can help you keep your eye on the prize and persevere in your career until you reach the top. After all, they’ve already been there and can encourage you through seemingly lulling periods and perceived obstacles. They remind you that not everything can be instantly gratifying. Mentors can keep you motivated to achieve as much as they did in the long run.

2. Mentors can save you from sticky situations.

You may not have the luxury of succeeding at damage control after making a mistake at work, but a mentor may offer you ideal solutions, alternatives, and maybe even excuses to lessen the negative consequences of a career-related blunder. It pays to have someone who has made similar errors in the past and learned to surpass them. When in trouble, call your mentor to de-escalate the problem, and get you back on track to success.

3. Mentors can give you honest feedback.

With office politics or uninvested bosses, you might find it challenging to lean on someone who can point out your blind spots and help you grow. A mentor can provide you with an objective standpoint on your work situations and give you constructive criticism so you can navigate the people and issues at work better.

4. Mentors can use their experiences to guide you

A mentor can help you foresee any red flags in a work problem or spot potential prospects you should take advantage of. These insights stem from years of experience and their position as a third-party observer.

Who Can Be Your Mentor?

Contrary to popular belief, mentors do not have to be the top-performing individuals at work – or even the top-ranking executives. Some people also believe they can only get a mentor through an official mentorship programme.

None of these things is true. These rigid beliefs may prevent you from tapping into the wide variety of individuals who could be your work mentor. Anyone you look up to at work can take that job, unofficially or not. With these many choices, how do you choose the right one?

1. Have a clear goal to achieve with a mentor.

Maybe you’re struggling with a career skill and need a veteran to coach you until you improve. Maybe you’re too introverted to socialise with colleagues and make your achievements known at work. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a mentor, have a clear goal in mind. Specify which specific traits or skills your mentor must and must not have.

For example, if you want to be a better people person, you shouldn't gravitate toward the office loner with the best tech skills. Likewise, if you want to be better at using software, you shouldn't choose the work veteran who everyone loves but can't use a computer.

2. Take a thorough look at your network.

Of course, it would be wonderful if your mentor is your supervisor. They are a direct line to your work performance and career progression and could offer you the most valuable feedback on how you’re doing and what you need to do to achieve your goals.

But not all managers make great mentors, and if not your supervisor, you may have better luck with another experienced professional in the same industry.

You could start getting to know your seniors in your current office department or expand your search by attending industry-related seminars, university reunions, or even parties and charities. The point is to make a conscious intention of connecting with people around you to find the right person. Who knows? The person that could link you to your mentor may just be lurking around that buffet table. Strike a conversation!

3. Choose a mentor with the career and accomplishments you want to have.

It would help to choose a mentor whose career you can envision will be yours one day. This tip will also rule out mentors that won’t lead you to where you want to be. For example, if work-life balance is a priority for you, then you may not want to be mentored by a workaholic. Keep in mind that people can only give you what they have, so make sure you want what your prospective mentor has.

4. Make sure communication flows smoothly between you and your mentor.

You know a relationship is good when there’s good chemistry and rapport - are you comfortable voicing your struggles and experiences to this person? Are they open to listening without judgement? Can you share laughs, and adjust to each other’s quirks? Mentorship is a relationship, and you must have a good one with your prospective mentor if you want things to work.

How to Work With a Mentor

Once you find a mentor, you must establish a rhythm for how often you stay in touch. Setting a regular schedule to meet with them will help keep things consistent.

Set each other’s expectations.

First things first: you have to make sure you’re interested in being mentored by them, and they’re also interested in being mentored by you! After establishing mutual interest, it’s time to be clear with them about how often you want to meet, what you expect to learn from them, and what they can provide.

Meet them consistently.

Although religiously sticking to a schedule is not a requirement, stay in touch with your mentor so the mentorship can progress. If you followed Step 1 and made your availability clear, you should be able to set a consistent series of meetings where you and your mentor can connect. If you choose not to follow a regular schedule, then make it a point to inform your mentor if you experience a current struggle or accomplish a certain goal at work, so they can be there for you when you need them the most.

What Happens When You Become a Mentor?

The time will come for you to achieve your sweet career success, and once you’re there, you may want to consider paying it forward and become a mentor yourself. Time to inspire others with your journey!

Mentors usually don’t go looking for a mentee, and mentees usually seek them out. After all, the saying goes, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." A mentee must have a clear goal of what they want from a mentor before they even consider who that mentor may be.

Don’t go chasing around rookie colleagues offering your mentoring services! If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be that mentorships arerelationships.They are often the result of an authentic connection with a person, concern for their wellbeing, and the desire to help them advance in their career.

That said, you can still convey your intention to mentor, so someone looking for guidance may have an easier time finding you. Make it known in your work conversations and during networking events that you’ve reached a stage in your career where you're ready to mentor. Post your career journey online to inspire others, and add a call to action that you are open to guiding individuals who would like to grow their careers in your industry.

So there you have it. Your cheat sheet on securing a much-coveted mentorship for people who don’t know it’s available to them. Be sure to share this article with others so they can jumpstart their mentorship, too.

If you're still finding the one, check out our Career Resources page first for some valuable work advice. Download JobStreet’s app available on the App Store and Google Play for more job-searching leads. It also offers expert insights and advice that could help you manage your work relationships.

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