Do You Need A Mentor?
It’s common to hear that you need a mentor for career success. Is that still true? Yes. You need a mentor. You need several. Over the course of your career you need people who help you along the way.
- Mentors are experienced and trusted advisers.
- Mentors can explain things in a short conversation that would take weeks, months, or even years for you to figure out on your own.
- Mentors can tell you things about yourself in a way that you can actually hear it.
- Mentors can easily open doors that you might otherwise stand on the outside looking in–forever.
- Mentors can teach you skills that you never knew you could develop.
- Mentors can help you see the world from another (or lots of other) perspective.
- Mentors can help raise your performance bar.
- Mentors can help you come up with new solutions to problems that have you stuck.
- Mentors can speed up your progress and development by sharing their experience (and saving you from having to go through the same experiences–especially the bad ones).
- Mentors can help build your network.
- Mentors can help you understand the unwritten rules of an organization.
YES. You Need a Mentor.
So, yes, you need a mentor. You need different mentors for different times in your career. You need mentors to help you with different developmental issues. For example, when you are graduating from college, you need someone to guide you from the college experience to the work experience. What should you expect? How should you act? What is important? Of course lots of people make this transition without a mentor (although parents frequently fill this role), but people who have mentors who specifically focus on this conversation avoid common pitfalls.
When you start to get serious about having a career instead of a job, a mentor can help you begin to navigate organizational politics and understand what organizations look for in “high potentials.” Young people who are a part of Executive Leadership Programs get a lot of this kind of mentoring and it makes a difference! Which job should you go after next? What should you focus on in the interview? What should you highlight in your performance assessment? What should you add to your resume draft?
When you decide to change organizations, which ones should you target? Who does your mentor know in the new organization? Which organization is likely to be the best path to your career goal?
When you’re trying to solve a difficult organizational problem–supply chain streamlining, new branding, cost reductions, new market target–a mentor with specific knowledge of that problem is a short cut to understanding the boundaries of the problem and where to find the kind of expertise that you need.
Just Do It. Ask.
Mentors can perform many roles in your career success. The key is to step out there and get one (and then another and another). Mentoring is about relationships. Ask someone. Who do you ask? Ask someone who knows what you need to know. Ask someone who can introduce you to people or experiences that take you to a new level. Chances are that anyone you ask would be flattered to be asked to be a mentor. S/he may or may not be able to say yes, but it is likely that they would enjoy being asked. If they say yes, know what it is that you’d like to get from them. Tell them. It’s ok. That is what mentoring is about. Straight talk. Being clear.
If s/he says s/he can’t do it, then tell them why you thought they would be a good mentor and ask if they can suggest someone else. Ask if they will provide an introduction or if you can use their name to approach the other person. You wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor who specializes in something you need. Don’t think twice about seeking a mentor in the same way.
Remember, though, mentoring is about relationships. What can you give back to your mentor? Mentoring relationships are two-way relationships. Mentors feel good when their mentees make progress. They like it when they can introduce their mentee to a new experience, person or organization. There are lots of things that you can teach someone who might be your mentor. Be sure to do it if it is appropriate. Be open to the ways you can help/teach/entertain your mentor.