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Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more. Personal and professional development is important for everyone to achieve — one such relationship that can help those with lesser experience hone their professional skills is a mentorship.
If you fall into this category, it is important to have a good understanding of what a mentor is, what qualities they have, and how to find and develop a great mentorship relationship. A mentorship is a mutually beneficial professional relationship in which an experienced individual the mentor imparts knowledge, expertise and wisdom to a less experienced person the mentee , while simultaneously honing their mentoring skills.
An effective mentor can professionally guide the mentee while maintaining a friendly and supportive relationship. A mentor should always have the mentee's best interests in mind and tailor their mentorship style to meet the needs of the mentee. Many people confuse coaching and mentoring ; however, they are different relationships with different purposes. Coaching is generally a short-term personal relationship between two people in which the coach uses thought-provoking and creative strategies to help the client develop personally or professionally.
On the other hand, a mentorship is a longer relationship — generally a year or more — that is mutually beneficial. The mentor helps the mentee develop professional skills or expertise, and the mentee allows the mentor to develop their leadership skills. Key takeaway: A mentor is a professional guide that imparts knowledge, wisdom, and expertise to a lesser experienced person. Whether you're the founder of a brand-new startup or an entrepreneur with a bit of business experience under your belt, you can always benefit from a mentor.
Another important aspect that Vicki Salemi , a career expert for popular job search platform Monster , pointed out is that when we're immersed in our own careers, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. It's important to have mentors — especially early in your career. These should be people other than your boss, and they should provide insight on getting ahead as well as supporting your overall goals.
The first step to find a mentor is defining what you want out of your career. This may not mean planning out your whole career — it's important to leave room to go where things take you — but defining what you want in the short term can give you a clear path forward. Consider your career path and narrow it down so you can determine who has your dream job and who you admire, said Bill Driscoll, senior district president of technology staffing services in the Northeast and Midwest at Robert Half.
You can also look in your own professional circle. These individuals can be former bosses, former professors or teachers, co-workers in another department, or family friends. As you look, try to prioritize someone who can give you long-term advice about your industry and has a good idea of your own company and what it takes to advance within your role. Someone who has a general idea of your current role and industry will be able to give you advice on things like new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organization.
Once you're ready to reach out to someone, it's important to keep things casual. Salemi said your approach to a potential mentor should be the same as an approach to a potential friend — your relationship will develop over time. Don't force things; stay relaxed. Lessons and advice will come over time.
It's kind of like when you think about friends in your life, how you met them and how maybe over the period of a year or so you've gotten to become really good friends … in the beginning, you didn't say, 'Will you be my friend? Tip: To find a mentor, define your career goals, identify your role models, narrow down someone in your network and industry, and casually form a professional relationship with them.
A mentor can be a very valuable asset, especially for young, aspiring entrepreneurs, and those new to the world of business. There are several benefits to working with a mentor. Finding the right mentor is not a secret to success — it's as obvious as it is essential. Learning from someone older, wiser and more experienced is an invaluable business opportunity, whether you've just started your first job or you're halfway through your career. As we slip into the day-to-day routine of working life, it's easy to get lost in the moment — our problems are six inches from our face, and a mentor can be the person to reset things so we can look at our careers and growth from a new perspective.
Ryan Holiday , an author and career expert, said finding a mentor starts with working hard and developing a personal reputation of success. By focusing on your own role and career, you can set yourself up to connect with more seasoned business professionals who will see your talent and want to help you grow. As Sheryl Sandberg said, 'It's not find a mentor, and you will do well; it's do well, and a mentor will find you.
With that first step in mind, understanding the nature of a mentor, mentee relationship can be important. Salemi said it's important for a mentor and a mentee to realize that the connection doesn't always need to be an intense, formal thing. It's better to focus on maintaining the professional relationship and learning what you can. Part of finding a mentor means learning how to appropriately follow up, add value to your mentor's life and career, and be proactive in your own career growth.
These lessons can apply to any worker at any stage of their career. Especially for young professionals who are just emerging in an industry or lack the experience needed to progress, you might feel self-conscious and wary of your endeavors. Sometimes, all you need in these moments is someone to look up to, someone who has been in your shoes but created their own path to success. Once you've met with someone and had an initial conversation, if you think they can provide valuable advice to you as your career progresses, make sure you think critically about how and when to follow up. If they're open to continuing a dialogue, set calendar reminders on when to follow up.
How often you speak with your mentor is up to you, but the goal is long-term, continued insight. That could mean hopping on the phone or meeting for coffee once a quarter, or even just twice a year. While in-person meetings are important, social media offers mentees the opportunity to have regular, no-pressure interactions with mentors. Use Twitter and LinkedIn for light things — interesting articles, book recommendations, important industry news, etc. Social media allows mentees to nudge their mentors, reminding them not only that they exist outside of the semiannual dinner, but also that they value the relationship.
Be sure not to nudge too frequently, though, or you'll come off as pushy. More importantly, don't discuss important career ideas over or social media — save that for the in-person interactions. One final, more meaningful way to connect with a mentor is regular mail.
A thank-you note or holiday card can go a long way to show you value your mentor's advice and presence in your life. It is important to choose wisely when selecting a mentor. This is someone you should look up to and aspire to be like. With that said, there are several qualities that all good mentors share.
At the most basic level, your mentor should have more experience than you and a track record of success. Great mentors have a complementary skill set and bring different qualities to the table. Different perspectives are valuable in the mentor-mentee relationship. Doug White, a career expert and editor of career and management insights website TCG Blog , recommended seeking a mentor who has a strong character and traits worth emulating.
Sometimes you need some constructive criticism or a reality check, while other times you need a high five or pat on the back. A well-chosen mentor can provide all of those things. A mentor in the same business area as you may better understand your business's challenges and concerns, but Storey said that fruitful mentoring relationships don't necessarily have to happen within the same industry. Leadership philosophy may be more important. Only then can you align yourself with the right guide.
Key takeaway: Good mentors are experienced, successful, authentic, creative, empathetic and honest. The best mentors share similar values with their mentees. As a mentee, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of asking a lot of your mentor without giving anything in return. While your mentor might be happy to provide you with advice regardless, it's still important to think of some ways to show your appreciation and make yourself available for your mentor.
Salemi said, at the very least, it's important to prove you appreciate the relationship by valuing your mentor's advice and time — if only by arriving at meetings early or adjusting your own schedule to make a meeting more convenient for your mentor. Young professionals may not have a lot to offer their mentors, but they can offer them respect and appreciation. The whole point of seeking out a mentor is to get important insight and advance your career. The only way that's possible is if you're proactive about your own situation. With a mentor, keep it simple and stay relaxed about the relationship.
There's often a lesson to be learned from someone who's further along in their career. The key is being open to whatever lesson or message that is. You want to create an environment where you're paying that knowledge forward to others. Additional reporting by Skye Schooley and Sammi Caramela. Some source interviews were conducted for a version of this article.
The key to mentorship and advancement: being proactive. How to Find a Mentor. Matt D'Angelo. Freelance Writer. A mentor is a seasoned professional who informally helps guide a lesser experienced person in their professional endeavors. A mentorship is mutually beneficial for the mentor and mentee.Find Mentor
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10 Tips for Finding a Mentor—and Making the Relationship Count