If you have career aspirations (and the majority of us do!) then it can be incredibly helpful to find a mentor. A mentor can be someone you go to for advice, and can be a great source of inspiration. Getting a mentor can be rewarding at any stage of your career, but particularly helpful when you’re just starting out. It can be difficult to have a clear plan when you’re only on the first step of your career ladder, and a mentor can point you in the right direction.

Of course, finding a mentor, within your specific field, can be challenging. What sort of qualities do you look for, and how would you go about asking someone to guide you in your career? We’ve outlined the basics below, to help you find, and then secure, a mentor! 

How Does Mentoring Work?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring, so you shouldn’t expect a structured format! While you may be fortunate enough to join a company that has a mentorship scheme, for most people, the relationship between mentor and mentee will be informal. It will be up to you and your mentor to determine how to make the most of your partnership.

There are a few things you should expect from your mentor, such as advice and guidance regarding your professional development. This should include tips on how to overcome your weaknesses, and how to make the most of your strengths. Your mentor should help you build up your industry knowledge, and will hopefully be able to teach you new skills and ways of thinking. 

Even if you’re not sure how useful a mentor would be, in terms of moving forward in your career, there is no doubt that they can introduce you to like minded individuals. You can start to build up a network of useful contacts, and become more familiar with other organisations in your sector. 

The Benefits of a Mentor

There are a number of benefits to getting a career mentor. The obvious advantage is that you’ll gain new knowledge and skills. You’ll also have someone to discuss your career progression with. But the success of a mentorship tends to depend on how much you both put into the relationship. Make sure you’re clear on your goals, and discuss them with your mentor. Their expectations will need to align with yours, and your mentor will have to commit a certain amount of time to guiding you.

Once you’ve determined what you’re hoping to get out of the arrangement, you can create a progress plan. Make sure that you have definitive goals and timescales in place, and contingency plans, should you not hit your targets. As long as you’re completely honest and open in these initial discussions, you should see positive results from your mentorship. 

female mentor chatting with colleague

What to Look for in a Mentor

When it comes to the qualities of a good mentor, they are usually someone who is at the top of their game. They’ll probably be influential within their chosen field, as well as respected by their peers and colleagues. While not necessarily older than you, your mentor is likely to have a wealth of experience to draw from, and will have made a lot of industry connections in this time. 

Essentially, your mentor should be someone you look up to, and is in a position you can see yourself working in one day. Other attributes of a mentor include: 

  • Someone positive, who you have an easy rapport with
  • An expert in their field, who has reached a level you aspire to
  • A good communicator, who can easily impart knowledge
  • Someone who is forward thinking, with ideals you can identify with

In a lot of cases, you’ll be able to find a mentor within the business you work in - perhaps a team leader or manager. But in order for them to be completely honest with you, offering constructive feedback, your mentor shouldn't be someone you directly report to. 

How to Find a Mentor

As mentioned above, your mentor could be a colleague, which would make finding a mentor much easier! Your company may even have a formal scheme in place - you should be able to find out through your HR department. But if you can’t find a mentor within your current place of employment, you could consider reaching out to an old colleague. 

Another way you can find a mentor is through online platforms. LinkedIn can be a great resource for connecting with suitable candidates, or you can try independent sites that set up mentorship arrangements - just be cautious if you’re asked to pay a fee for the service. If you obtained higher education or other qualifications, you could even speak to the alumni office, to see if they can help set you up with a mentor. 

Overall, it’s important to be proactive when finding a mentor, not to mention when you’ve got a mentorship set up. The more work you put into the partnership, the more rewarding it will be!

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