Mentoring is perhaps an overused term. Just about anyone can be considered a mentor. But when it comes to finding a mentor for your career, it means more than someone who is your boss or someone in your field that you look up to. A career mentor can shape the trajectory of your career.
Here are some compelling reasons why you need a mentor:
1) Someone to guide you. Even if you have already done well in your career, a mentor can help you achieve even more. Someone who is well placed in your field can open doors for you that might be more difficult for you to open yourself. A mentor can also give you guidance when you come to a fork in the road. It can be very helpful to have someone who has been down the road that you are on to give you some objective feedback.
2) Someone to refer you to opportunities. Another advantage of having a mentor is that this person can keep an eye out for you and inform you about opportunities that you are suitable for. Since most people get their jobs by being referred by someone that they know, this is a huge benefit of having a mentor who is in your corner.
3) A support system. It’s always helpful to have a professional support system. We need a support system in our personal lives, and we need a support system in our professional lives. A mentor can give you encouragement when you run into difficulties in your career and cheer you on even when you do not feel like going on. And this person can give you much needed perspective.
4) Foundation for a professional network. Having a great mentor, especially as you start your career, can jumpstart your professional network. This person can introduce you to others in his or her network, and those connections can be invaluable. There will be people who will take time for you because both you and they are connected to your mentor.
5) Knowledge base. A mentor can also share his or her wisdom and experience that has been accumulated over the years. By drawing on this knowledge base, you can avoid mistakes that your mentor has made. You can also leverage this knowledge base to advise you when you get into difficult situations.
So how should you get started? Take some time and think about who you already know that might serve in this capacity for you. You can approach this person and ask if he or she would be willing to mentor you. Be sure to spell out what kinds of things you are looking for so that you will both be on the same page.
If you cannot think of anyone in your network who could be a mentor, try looking at a professional association linked to your field for such a person. Since you have to pay to be a member of most professional associations, most members are serious about their fields when they join. A professional association could be a good source of potential mentors.
It may take a little time to find the right mentor, but as you can see, it will be well worth the investment.