You have the drive. Your experience and background have helped you land some great jobs. You’ve grown your network and keep in contact with co-workers from the past. But for some reason, you now find yourself at a point where you’re not sure what’s next for you and your career.
We’ve got three words for you: find a mentor.
A mentor is that one person who will take you under his or her wing and guide you through all the ups and downs in your career. This person will help you make better decisions, increase your skills, and open the door to new opportunities.
Find the Ideal Mentor
Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to find a mentor. They start their search thinking that they need a seasoned professional who’s been in the business for years. While this is often the case, your choice in mentor isn’t about age; it’s about who will best suit your needs.
Here are our top tips for finding someone to guide you and take that next big step:
1. Determine what you need.
The more you know about yourself, the easier it’ll be to find the right mentor. Take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses to help decide what you need to learn and where you need to grow. Think about the types of qualities in a mentor that would be most beneficial to you at this point in your career. Is it someone with expertise in a certain field? Is it someone with lots of connections in your industry? Also consider what kind of mentor will work best with your personality — if you’ll want a good listener or need someone who’s been down your particular road before, like switching careers or moving from one specific role to another.
2. Look to those closest to you.
When looking to fill the role of mentor, begin your search with family and friends before extending out into your network. For example, you may find someone perfect for you through a mutual friend or colleague. If you’re still unable to nail down a mentor, consider attending business associations in your area, joining community groups, or volunteering for nonprofit organizations.
3. Set your expectations.
Set some expectations for a mentor to help you focus on your need and narrow down your options. And once you find someone who agrees to mentor you, you’ll also be able to clearly explain what you need. The other person will then better understand the time commitment, topics for discussion, and goals for a successful mentorship.
4. Be patient.
Don’t get discouraged if finding a mentor takes longer than you think. Not everyone will want to take on this responsibility. After all, mentorship is a time commitment and it can be emotionally taxing for the other person. He or she has essentially invested in your career success.
Perks of Having a Mentor
But if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. You will find someone who’s more than happy to tell you the hard truths, share wisdom, and guide you toward your goals. And when they do, you’ll find yourself reaping the benefits, including:
- Feedback. Besides your boss, you have few opportunities to receive honest feedback. The most rewarding aspect of your mentor’s feedback is that it entails more than just job performance and can touch on communication, leadership, and other skills.
- Practical advice. Mentors can provide practical advice on not just your career or how to succeed at your job but salary negotiations, networking, and even dealing with difficult people in the workplace.
- Skills. If you’re selective in your choice of mentor (or mentors), you have the chance to learn very specific skills relevant to your professional and personal goals. Mentors often will suggest ways to improve in a particular area or two.
- Credibility. Because your mentor has likely earned a certain amount of respect, his or her credibility will inevitably rub off on you. Your association with this person affects other people’s regard of you and your abilities.
- Opportunities. Mentors often know of job openings within an industry. As they learn your strengths and goals, they’re more apt to send opportunities your way. As they say, it’s not what you know but who you know!
Behind the most successful person, you will likely find a mentor. So no matter where you are in your career, find a mentor. It’s a proven method for reaching your career goals — and reaching them faster than ever before!