Mentoring is a hot topic at the moment. Everyone is banging on about it, but what is it, and why should you be looking for a mentor?
Having a good mentor can be a real boost for your career. Someone with plenty of experience and knowledge to share can be a great sounding board when you have a work-based issue, and a guiding hand when you need a second opinion on the direction of your career. They may also have access to a network of people it would take you years to get to know so they will be able to open doors for you that previously would have been closed.
If you can join an established mentoring scheme that’s great, but there’s no reason why you can’t find a mentor independently. Preferably, someone you don’t currently work with as you’ll need to be able to discuss work issues without worrying about upsetting the apple cart. Perhaps an ex-colleague or boss you have admired, or approach someone in the industry you have seen speak at an event, or have read their blog and like what they say – they may say no, but they will be flattered to be asked and you never know, they might agree to it.
Have a think about what you want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Do you need help writing a decent CV and covering letter to get a job? Do you want someone to help you write a structured career plan, and help you achieve certain goals? Or do you need something a bit less formal and just an ear to chew on now and then? Make sure you establish both yours and your mentor’s expectations right from the start. It is also useful to set a time limit on the relationship – do you expect to be mentored for the entire length of your career by this person, or are you looking for someone to help you through, say, the next five years?
The onus should be on you to keep in touch with your mentor and make it easy for them to spend some time with you. Don’t expect them to chase you if they haven’t heard from you – they are doing you a favour by giving you their time so make sure you respect that.
The mentor should find mentoring you a rewarding experience and so it’s important that you update them regularly on your progress and be suitably thankful when they give you advice.
If you get the mentoring relationship right, it can be a fantastic way to get an experienced point of view and may make you think differently about how you can achieve your career goals.