12 March 2015
In a day and age where technology is rapidly evolving and social media allows us to acquire information faster than ever, finding the right resource to give you the answers you need can seem fairly simple. While having this access can be great for finding information related to your career, learning about certain aspects of your profession through your professional network can be even more useful and worthwhile. For example, one of the best resources your professional network could provide you with is a great mentor. The right mentor could give you the tools you need to perform better on the job, advance more rapidly within your organization, and even introduce you to a broader network of experts in your field. However, cultivating a strong mentor/mentee relationship takes time and dedication on both ends. While there is no foolproof method to finding a great mentor, there are 4 steps you can take to ensure that once you do find one, you’ll be in the best position to move your career forward. Set goals and expectations for yourself Think about how ineffective it would be to ask someone for directions if you had no idea where your final destination was. In the same way, how could you seek direction from someone without a vision of your own long-term goals? Therefore, to make the most out of finding a great mentor, the first step is to set the goals and expectations of what you want to gain from the relationship. In addition, try to pinpoint your weaknesses and determine how this particular individual will be able to help further your career goals. Admire your mentor’s professional brand Whether you’re in search of a mentor at your current job or seeking help from a distant colleague, make sure they emulate the qualities you admire in a person and that their professional brand aligns with the type of expert you want to become in the future. Is your mentor respected amongst their peers? Does your mentor work well with others? You should be aware of how your mentor conducts themselves on a professional/personal level before deciding to invest in a long-term relationship with them. As a result, your ability to effectively collaborate and openly share ideas with your mentor may impact how honestly you can address certain areas of your professional development. Seek guidance from an expert in your field Some would say that the best way to become the best is to learn from the best, and this holds true for finding a great mentor as well. It will be most advantageous for your career to seek the help from someone that is an expert in the specialty area you’re interested in. A great mentor should be one who is willing and excited to impart their skills, knowledge, and experiences onto someone that is genuinely interested in taking their advice. It’s important to note that any expert in a particular field should also be up-to-date on the market and industry trends that affect their line(s) of business. Additionally, you should want a mentor who is knowledgeable on a number of areas, not just the particular area you’re most interested in, as you will be more likely to get well-rounded advice and guidance this way. Establish a line of communication Communication is the foundation to building any strong relationship, and cultivating a bond with a mentor begins with establishing a line of communication between the two. A perfect conversation starter could be to draw attention to your mentor’s key strength(s) and highlight a specific example of something they did that you may want to be able to accomplish in the future. For example, saying something along the lines of “I like what you did with ABC, I’m interested in learning more about that,” could be exactly what you need to establish a line of communication. Remember, once you establish this relationship, it’s important to maintain a regular schedule of keeping in touch (i.e., face-to-face meeting, e-mail, phone call, etc.) on a weekly or monthly basis. The more you proactively communicate with your mentor, the easier it may be to ask the tough questions you need to in order to get the answers that will help you the most. Finally, the most important aspect of a mentor/mentee relationship is that you are willing to take honest, constructive criticism and successfully use it to improve your craft.