In this modern day and age, having a mentor of any kind is a rare thing. However, the importance of having a mentor should not be underestimated, especially when it comes to your career growth. Although the task of finding the right mentor may feel like a difficult one, often times simply asking is enough for someone to feel inclined to help you.
What is a Career Mentor?
A career mentor is someone with years of experience in the field that you either work within or are interested in, or whose career you admire. This professional will have the experience and know-how to give valuable insight on that industry and will help you advance your career with their guidance and tutelage. Having a mentor means you have someone to turn to when you are unsure of the right steps to take in your career, or which path to go down. It can be comforting to have a mentor you truly connect with, and who genuinely wants you to succeed. In return for this relationship your career mentor will be able to tout their success in developing a protégé. What’s the best way to find a career mentor, you ask?
Think about what you want – In order to find a mentor, you will have to first decide the qualities you want in a mentor, and what you’re looking to get out of the relationship. You will also need to think about what you would ideally like to end up doing professionally, if you aren’t doing it already. Make a list of your expectations pertaining to your future mentor. For instance, do you want someone who has a fantastic network of contacts and connections, or would you prefer someone who has grown very quickly in their career without having had much help. Perhaps you are an introvert seeking to develop the communication skills of an extrovert. It is very important to identify your goals when seeking a mentor, and what you hope to gain with the help and advice of this person.
Research – Once you decide exactly what kind of mentor you want, begin researching the field for potential mentors. There are often professionals that have already volunteered themselves as mentors who are just waiting to meet people in need of their help. For example, Ed2010.com is a journalism website that has an “Ed Buddy System” where you can sign up to meet with a “60-minute mentor” somewhere in the city. Research whether there are similar mentoring services in place where you live, for the industry you are interested in.
Alternately, you can make a list of potential individuals who have not necessarily volunteered their services as mentors just yet, and begin contacting them via email or phone. Politely and formally explain that you are just starting out in the business or looking to start, and that you find their career journey to be particularly inspiring. Then ask if they would be willing to take a look at your resume and give some feedback. If they respond, you can expand the interaction and eventually suggest something informal, like meeting over coffee for a brief conversation.
Personality Matters – You want to find someone who you can actually learn from, and that will be made much easier if you actually like the person. Similarly, you also want someone who enjoys being a mentor for you, so you need to make sure that your personalities mix well. You don’t want to find a mentor who is so busy with their own work and life that they barely have time to advise you, or someone whose personality clashes with your own.
True career mentors are life-long friends who want to help their protégés in any way they can, and they’re personally invested in the success of their apprentices and want to see them succeed. Gain a mentor and you gain a helping hand from someone with the wisdom and success you hope to one day have. Then, someday, maybe you can pay it forward!