Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, and Mark Zuckerberg are just a few people who’ve had a mentor help them on their road to success. While achieving such high-profile success may not be your ultimate goal, there is an important lesson we can learn from their relationship with their mentors: cultivating a strong mentor/mentee partnership takes time and dedication on both ends. On one hand, you want a mentor who is seasoned in their field and can provide you with the guidance you need at various stages of your career, while on the other, you need to be truly invested in their advice and put the effort into maintaining the relationship. That’s why who you choose to be your mentor is key!
To truly get the most out of your relationship, you first need to ensure that both of your goals and expectations are aligned. To help you identify a mentor who will stand by your side, here are 3 factors you should focus on:
A “safe zone” for professional development
While many professionals typically seek a mentor at their workplace (i.e., manager, coworker, etc.), it’s a good idea to consider someone who isn’t a part of your organization. Why? If you’re unable to speak freely with your mentor, this undermines the ultimate goal of building a relationship based on trust. You never want a mentor who you’re unable to be 100% honest with, and a good mentor should encourage you to freely explore your short and long term career goals—something a colleague may not be able to do. As a result, you must strongly consider the level of trust you share with your prospective mentor and be confident that they will listen to you without judgement.
As you start your career with a new company, finding someone internally who can show you the ropes is key. While they may serve as a good internal mentor to help you navigate opportunities within the company, it might not always be in your best interest to rely on the same person for ongoing career advice. Since an internal mentor may be able to identify key strengths and weaknesses in your performance, a mentor with an outside perspective can provide you with a more objective (unbiased) opinion on how to emphasize your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
Finding a mentor who has your best interests in mind at all times is crucial. For example, a mentor from outside of your organization might give you the opportunity to learn a more effective way to negotiate what you’re looking for, while an internal mentor may want to keep that to themselves. Along the same lines, this outside perspective will force you to look at certain situations more objectively. If you’re interested in finding a mentor outside of your workplace, search for organizations like the International Mentoring Network, which helps to connect professionals across a variety of industries and experience levels with career coaches and mentors.
Access to a broader network, resources, and information
“It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is an old saying in the professional realm that becomes more apparent as you progress throughout your career. While it may be easy to point out the prestige associated with having an accomplished professional in your corner, at times, we forget that this particular type of relationship affords you the ability to do so much more. For example, you’re able to broaden your network through your mentor’s connections, be introduced to new resources, and gain access to information that not everyone is exposed to.