Want a way to get ahead in your career while at the same time growing your network and your skill set? Finding a mentor is a simple yet effective way, don’t believe me (or a little scared to put yourself out there?) read on to learn why you need one and how to cultivate a lasting mentoring relationship.
One of the first things I did when I began this journey into Career Coaching was to find some mentors to help me on my path. I found a mentor who had been doing Career Coaching for 15 years and I found a mentor who could teach me the nuts and bolts of running a business. Both have been instrumental in the growth of this little venture of mine. During my meetings with them I learned a lot and gained their support. It is nice to have someone I can go to with questions and to be my own sounding board. It has been invaluable.
It doesn’t matter if you are a little lost or if you have your 10 year career plan set in stone, a mentor helps you discover crucial insights by presenting things in a different light while teaching you things that you would not have learned otherwise. A study done at Sun Mircosystems looking at internal mentoring relationships found that those employees that did receive mentoring were promoted 5x more often than those who didn’t. Crazy! And 3 out of 4 senior executives listed mentoring as one of the key factors to them getting to where they are today (page 10). Wow. I bet it was some of the insider information like how to navigate an organization’s politics and how to sell themselves more effectively that really helped those individuals climb up the ladder.
A mentor is not just for your professional growth, they also help with your personal growth. Since they have been there and done that they know how to give a career your all while still managing to strike a balance to enjoy the things that matter most to you. They have, through trial and error, figured a lot of the little things and getting that knowledge can save you time and headaches on your path. They also know what soft skills you need to develop – for example problem solving, leadership and communication skills that are vital to one’s growth.
Never mind all the people they know. A mentor from your company or industry has developed a vast network. They can give you the tips and tricks on what worked and what didn’t for them to create all those connections. Plus, building a strong relationship with them will open up their network to you, giving you access you may never have had before.
Now that I’ve hopefully sold you on finding a mentor. I want to tell you about the 3 main mentoring relationships that you could and should develop:
1.Organizational Mentoring Relationship
This is someone from your own organization. A lot of companies have their own Mentoring Program developed that are typically initiated through HR or your manager. If they don’t have a formal program, don’t fret! During your next performance review (usually the best time) or a performance check in (typically every quarter), specifically when you and your manager are discussing your Personal Growth Plan, ask for assistance in securing a mentor. Be clear about your career goals and list some precise things you would be looking for in a mentor. If you feel your manager is the ideal candidate for this than straight out ask them!
2.Formal Mentoring Relationship
This is ideal when you want a mentor from outside of your organization, say in your industry of choice or with someone in your ideal career while you navigate a career change. Asking to start this type of relationship can feel scary, I get it, but there are ways and places you can go to for help.
One amazing resource is MentorCity. They are a formal organization for business, education, professional associations and individuals. You will fill out a profile and what is important to you and you will be matched up with potential mentors. They also have resources that guide you in establishing a relationship. I use it through the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario and am currently mentoring two individuals.
Another way to find a mentor is to seek out informational interviews with people. Perhaps during your call with them the advice they gave you was what you needed to hear or maybe the two of you just hit it off. If that is the case, put yourself out there! Tell them and ask, you could say something like “This conversation has been exactly what I needed. I’ve really appreciated your openness and candor and was wondering if you would consider mentoring me?”
3. Informal Mentoring Relationships
If all of that seems just too much for you right now then don’t worry, you can still create relationships with people without having the definition of mentor and mentee. Actually if you approach everyone you meet as someone you can learn from, in no time flat you will have a team of informal mentors!
This relationship could start at work with a respected peer, your manager or someone whose opinion you value. You could initiate the relationship by asking to grab a coffee or lunch. During the conversation you would discuss your career and your goals and simply ask for some advice. That could be it. Or you could keep them updated on how you are taking their advice and you could ask for any other tips or tricks that they may have. To note though, all the conversations should NOT revolve around you and your career. Talk about yourself outside of work, ask them questions about their career and life too. This is still a colleague, you want to get to know them.
Outside of your workplace you can still forge a similar relationship with someone already in your network (suggesting a catch up coffee or phone call). Growing your network through networking events or informational interviews. The keys are still asking for advice, follow up and then perhaps asking for some more advice.
Tips and Tricks:
Mentoring is an amazing way that we can take control over our career path, it feels great to be the master of our own story rather than an audience member doesn’t it?
It is just another secret to success. Did you want some more Behind the Scenes Secrets? Every week in my newsletter, I give one that I’ve learned from my fifteen years in Recruitment and Talent Acquisition. You can access last week’s newsletter here and sign up to get each week’s secret straight to your inbox every Friday.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.