Having a mentor can be incredibly helpful in growing a thriving career. Whether you work in a structured corporate environment or independently, there is much to be gained from getting advice and input from someone more experienced in your chosen industry.
You might work in a business where mentoring is a valued part of the company culture. If you don’t, learning more about mentoring, how it works and what value it can add to your career can be advantageous.
In this post, we’ll define the term ‘mentoring’ and what it can look like in different contexts. We’ll also share some tips on how to find a mentor. Finally, if you have experience in a specific field, we briefly discuss what is required when becoming a mentor yourself.
What is a mentor?
A mentor can take many different forms. For example, it can be someone you admire and learn from at a distance, without engaging with them directly. However, building a relationship with someone you respect can assist with your personal and professional development.
A mentor is someone to whom you can turn to for advice, informally or formally. In a more formal setting, this can include regular check-ins with set goals. Informally, it may be someone wise that you chat to on an ad hoc basis. For some, mentoring is an intrinsic requirement for a defined career trajectory.
If you are self-employed, a mentor could be someone who has also built their own business and can share lessons from their successes and failures. In a competitive world, mentors can help you to grow your network by putting you in touch with or introducing you to relevant people in your field.
How does mentorship work?
A mentor doesn’t have to be someone you look to for advice or input on everything. For example, you can have many different mentors in your personal and professional capacity. They also don’t necessarily need to be older than you but, people with a longer career might have more wisdom to share.
Mentoring can also occur in different formats, from one-on-one relationships to group settings. But, overall, it’s a process of knowledge sharing, which can take place over time, during a single conversation, or even by reading someone’s autobiography.
While there might be more passive ways to benefit from mentoring, building a long-term relationship can assist you in growing your career more holistically. You might speak to your mentor infrequently, but reaching out when you have questions can make all the difference when you need guidance to take your role or business to the next level.
How to find a mentor?
Becoming a mentee in a structured company setting could be as simple as speaking to your manager or department head. Depending on your role and career objectives, a mentor could also be someone from a different department or someone who works for another company and has achieved some of the milestones you see as crucial in your career growth.
Mentorship can be more challenging if you work independently, as it might be unclear what milestones you want to achieve, especially when starting your career. Social media, LinkedIn and in-person networking events offer a platform to connect with people in your industry who you can learn from.
Finding a mentor may require putting yourself out there. People might also be busy and unable to offer you much time. Mentoring can be a paid service or offered for free, especially if you already have a relationship with the mentor. If you are clear about what you are looking for, it will be easier for more experienced people to help you or point you in the right direction.
Becoming a mentor yourself
You could become a mentor if you’ve built a successful career or business or have experience or expertise to share. Mentoring relationships are not just a one-way exchange, as mentors can often learn a lot from their mentees!
To be a good mentor, you should be able to engage with someone looking for advice. You can meet up once a month or at regular intervals that you agree on. If you’re working with groups, being a skilled communicator can also help you to be able to share your experience and expertise more effectively.
Sometimes, people don’t consider becoming a mentor until someone chooses them to be their mentor, because they can see the value they have to offer. Whether you choose to be a mentor, mentee or both, you can benefit from lifelong learning and upskilling with industry-relevant skills as you start to take and share advice. This includes developing your communication and coaching skills, which can empower you to work more constructively with someone else.
Learn mentorship-ready skills with SACAP Global
SACAP Global offers three communications-focused online courses, which can help you to improve your ability to engage with and work with others, whether you’re a mentor or a mentee.
These include the following:
- Effective Interpersonal Communication
- Advanced Interpersonal Communication
- How to Have Critical Conversations
As discussed, if you’re interested in helping and guiding people to achieve their true potential, you can learn more by taking our short online course, Intro to Coaching.