08 August 2014
Throughout your career, you’ll make a lot of connections, but one of your most valuable professional relationships may come from a career mentor. For example, iconic visionaries like Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Steve Jobs (Apple), or Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), amongst many more, often recall the advantages of having a mentor to turn to. The right mentor can be a great resource for personal development, occupational guidance, and honest recommendations towards successful career growth. However, with so many successful professionals in your network, how do you know who would be the best mentor for you? While there is no foolproof method to gaining a mentor, here are certain steps you can take to connect with the best match for you: Know your professional goals. In order to know who could be the best resource for your career, it’s important to have a clear set of short and long term professional goals. This may involve first understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and then finding someone in your professional network who has the right amount of experience in their field to help guide your aspirations accordingly. Just ask. Whether through a simple conversation, expressing a shared opinion, or sending a friendly email, a mentor/mentee relationship can come about in a number of different ways. Therefore, it’s important to remember that this type of relationship doesn’t need to extend from a formal meeting or interaction. For instance, if you work with your intended mentor, one approach can be to send them an email highlighting a challenge or dilemma you are experiencing in order to illicit a helpful response from them. This should open up a line of communication between the two of you, creating other opportunities to connect at a later point in time. Ideally, the more you communicate with this person, the better your chances of the relationship maturing into a mentor/mentee relationship. Be open-minded. Whether your mentor is from your company or in a group you’re associated with, you should be open minded to the professional suggestions they may give. Keep in mind, if someone is willing to connect with you to help you improve your skills and attain your goals, you should be willing to learn all you can and use their constructive criticism effectively. Look for the right personality fit. It’s important for your relationship with your mentor to be based on open communication and mutual respect. For example, it might be impractical to choose someone you have a direct working relationship with as there could be a conflict of honest communication for the sake of maintaining a strong working relationship. In addition, you should consider a mentor who possesses the qualities you admire not only on a professional level, but also respect on a personal level. Your mentor should be able to impart their unbiased advice and expertise without a clash of personalities. Stay proactive. Finally, in order to truly get something out of the mentorship, you have to be willing to put in effort if your mentor gives you tasks to work on. For example, if they set up short-term goals for you, be proactive about working towards accomplishing them. If the mentor takes time out of their schedule to help you, and you don’t follow through, what’s the point?