Mentoring to develop your career

Two people talking

What is a mentor?

A mentor is considered to be a trusted and wise guide, who can help you through your career, and life journey. In some cases, mentors have the potential to open doors for you; to glimpse the future and the opportunity it presents. Think about those people who have been and are mentors to you in your life so far. If you don’t have a formal mentor think about who you go to now for wise counsel and advice? In some shape or form have they helped you grow?

What is the value of having a mentor?

Everyone has a career goal they want to achieve and areas of strength and development in their existing skillset. It is through understanding the barriers to achieving these goals (both perceived and real) and continuing to work on our strengths and working on our areas of development that we evolve. So, how can a mentor help?

A mentor can help you through an unknown future; can review and help strategise ways to overcome barriers and above all they can share advice and experiences to help you progress in your career.

When you engage in a mentor/mentee relationship a mentor may ask you questions similar to the below to help you reflect and plan your future career.

  • What were your career goals in the past and what are they now?
  • What are your career goals for the next 5-10 years?

They will also challenge you to think about:

  • What is real and possible?
  • What is your long-term vision versus short term pain?

To gain the most out of a mentor/mentee relationship it is important that you are clear with your mentor on what you want to focus on and set objectives/goals. For example, if you are looking to move into a manager role and you want to develop your stakeholder management skills you would share this with your mentor so they can provide feedback and perspective on situations to help you develop this competency.

Additionally, it is important that you have identified how to measure your progress/success for each goal to ensure you remain on track.

How do you find a mentor? And who will be a good mentor for you?

When looking for a mentor, keep your goals in mind. The person you select should be able to guide you and assist you in developing yourself to achieve your goals. They might exist within your company or outside. They can be a co-worker, a manager or past manager, a sports coach, or a person you trust in the community. If you don’t know who to call upon to be a mentor, think about your ‘network’ - those people you already seek ideas and guidance from, who you interact with through work or your hobbies. Use this network to ask for referrals, ideas and support if needed.

Once you have identified someone and they have agreed to be your mentor you need to have a conversation about the mentor and mentee relationship. This could include:

  • What guidance you need in your career and what support your mentor could offer you
  • How you will both engage, how often and expectations

The mentoring responsibility lies with you, not the mentor. You have to organise it. Commit to your career and to yourself to make this happen.

Ask for what you need. Then with the help of your mentor build your career plans to help you shape your future.