A mentor is an experienced colleague who can provide invaluable guidance as you begin your career and advance in it. He or she may work for the same organization or another one. It is often better to choose a mentor who is also a coworker because he or she will have an insight into your organization that someone else won't.
When you are just starting out, a mentor can help you avoid the mistakes that come with inexperience. He or she can make sure you don't miss out on any career-advancing opportunities to which newbies may not be privy. A mentor can make you the beneficiary of his or her experience.
What Can Your Mentor Do for You?
- When you encounter an unfamiliar situation at work and don't know how to deal with it—for example, a workplace bully or a boss that doesn't seem to like you—a mentor can give you advice to successfully overcome it. There is a good chance he or she has either been through a similar situation or knows someone who has.
- Because he or she is on a higher rung on the career ladder, your mentor has access to opportunities you do not yet have. His or her status can open up some of these opportunities to you. For example, he or she can score coveted invitations to industry events and provide introductions to influential people in your field.
- Your mentor can alert you to job opportunities within your organization or elsewhere.
- Your mentor can point you in the right direction when it comes to investing in your continued education and training. If you both work in the same occupational field, he or she will know what additional skills and certifications are valuable.
- If you have to decide whether to accept a job offer, he or she can look it over to see if it is a fair deal.
- When it comes time to ask your boss for a raise, your mentor can give you tips on how to negotiate a higher salary.
How to Find a Mentor
After learning about the numerous benefits, you probably want to find a mentor as soon as possible. Some companies have formal mentoring programs. They either match new employees with mentors or respond to requests for them. Contact your employer's human resources department to learn more.
If your employer doesn't have a formal mentoring program, it will be up to you to find someone. Your professional network is the best place to start. Start putting out feelers to see if anyone is willing to help. Remember this person does not have to work for the same employer but, ideally, should be in the same field. For this relationship to be as useful as possible, your mentor should have several more years of experience.
Another good way to find a mentor is through a professional association. Many can match new members with seasoned ones. If you don't already belong to one, this would be a good reason to join.
College alumni associations are also a good source for mentors. They can match recent graduates with older alumni.
Tips for Having a Successful Relationship
- Choose a mentor whose goals are similar to yours. He or she must be much further along on the same or a similar career path.
- It is advantageous if your mentor's training is the same as yours. Someone in the same career field is in a better position to advise you.
- Ask your mentor if he or she can commit to the relationship. You will have to meet regularly, and he or she will have to be able to respond to your requests for advice in a timely fashion. If this isn't possible, find someone else with whom to work.
- Accommodate your mentor's busy schedule. For example, if he or she wants to meet with you before or after work, don't make excuses about being too busy or tired.
- Don't wait for someone to offer to be your mentor. If you think someone will make a good advisor, ask that person for his or her help.