How Mentors Can Help Advance Your Career
You know you want to advance in your career, but you are having a little bit of trouble figuring out which path is the correct one, and the best way to get there. Your mom can tell you how long to let the chicken boil until it is safe to consume, but she may not necessarily be able to help you determine how to move up the career ladder, which is why having a mentor is essential. Idealist Careers defines a mentor as someone who “agrees to share their skills, knowledge, expertise, and professional contacts with you.”
Benefits of a Mentor
Mentors can enhance career advancement in a variety of ways. According to ITworld mentors can serve as a professional advocate and a networking assistant. Mentors can serve as a reference for future employers and speak to your strengths, skills, and strong suits, as well as introduce you to people within your community, industry, or profession.
According to the National Career Development Association (NCDA), mentors can help you develop important skills such as time management, teamwork, prioritization, and communication skills – all of which are important when it comes to advancing and showing that you have what it takes to hold a position of leadership. Mentors may be able to teach you some of this information on their own, or advise you on the best places to go to pick up on these sought-after skills, such as workshops, seminars, or reading material.
You’ve heard the old adage, “been there, done that.” Mentors have likely been in your shoes at one point or another, and they know what it feels like to be a little lost when it comes to advancing your career. For example, if you’re returning to civilian life after serving overseas in the military, you may be struggling to find the right career fit; a mentor who has had similar experiences to yours may be a wonderful resource for sending you in the right direction. MindTools states that mentors can help you gain valuable advice and insight into what it takes to get ahead, and can be a “sounding board” for ideas to help you decide what is the best course of action.
Find Mentors Inside and Outside
The mentor(s) you choose don’t have to be from directly within your company, although it will help to have at least one who is. According to a college mentoring worksheet by the University of Arizona, having mentors within your company or organization allows you to gain concrete, specific guidance, and enables them to help you facilitate socialization and form connections. Mentors outside of your company or organization give you a comfortable and safe environment to voice concerns and struggles, provide you with an objective perspective, and present the opportunity to make a wider range of professional connections.
Leadership and Business Psychologist Anne Pershel suggests that internal mentors are helpful when it comes to opening doors to future opportunities within the company. Internal mentors also tote the benefit of being familiar with the company’s values, vision, and mission – all of which are key components to understand when looking to advance. As for external mentors, Pershel says they hold value because you are able to completely open up to them without fear of how you may be perceived, as opposed to opening up to a mentor holding a position that could affect your future with the company. External mentors are also more likely to feel open to suggest paths outside of the company.
Where to Look
Mentors can be someone within your organization, such as your boss, manager, or supervisor, or simply someone whose career path, skills, or leadership qualities you hope to harness one day. CareerCast suggests also looking outside of your organization for mentors, such as at networking events, business social events, conventions, workshops, alumni groups, industry organizations, or even social media networks.
Mentors can be found just about anywhere, and once you find one, you’ll soon realize just how easy it is to utilize them to advance your career.