The benefits of mentorship
Finding a mentor can be hugely beneficial, both at the start of your career and as it progresses. They can be an invaluable source of advice, guidance, knowledge and inspiration, and can be hugely helpful in helping you to achieve future goals.
An ongoing relationship with a mentor, who will normally be respected and well-known within your business or industry, can open doors to future opportunities. This may be as a result of their willingness to pass on knowledge gained from extensive experience or through the sharing of their contact list.
The right mentor
The mentor you work with should ideally be someone who:
- Works in a relevant field
- You admire and respect
- Is respected by their peers
- Is considered an innovator and an expert
- Is at a career pinnacle that you one day hope to reach
- You have a rapport and are comfortable with
- Is someone you can identify with, both personally and professionally
- Has a positive and motivational attitude
- Is not your line-manager or supervisor
- Will offer constructive and honest advice and feedback
Finding a mentor
The route to finding a mentor is not set in stone but there are some avenues you can try if you are serious about finding a mentor:
- Find out if your company runs a mentoring programme. Your HR department should have details if one exists
- Find someone from your existing contacts’ list or check out LinkedIn for inspiration
- Speak to your former or current educational institutions. They may carry out mentor match-making as part of their alumni programme, for example
- Don’t be afraid to ask contacts for referrals to help you find the right mentor
- There are independent schemes and websites offering mentorships, but beware of those that charge for services
Mentoring in practice
Your company may offer a structured mentorship scheme or the relationship may be more informal. The style of mentorship will also differ depending upon the individuals involved. In general, however, a mentor should offer you most, or all, of these six key benefits
- Feedback, praise and constructive criticism
- A chance to build knowledge and increase skills
- Guidance as to how to overcome weaknesses and develop strengths
- Professional development guidance and career advice
- An introduction to beneficial organisations and contacts
- An insight into the importance of innovative thinking
You will need to work out from the outset what you want from the relationship and what the mentor is prepared to offer. These mutually-aligned expectations will prevent problems in the future.
Don’t be too demanding and be realistic about how much attention and time your mentor can offer. Be honest about your aspirations and beware of being over-zealous in your approach.