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Talk about a halo effect
Mentors and coaches are making bigger waves than ever as an increasing amount of people find them effective at advancing their careers.
Throughout your career, you will make many investments in the hopes of becoming a better version of your professional self.
Some investments don't come in the traditional form of degrees or courses, but in a more familiar form—a person. More specifically, a mentor.
Unfortunately, career mentors don't grow on trees or magically appear when you wish for them. Finding one requires dedication, a clear idea of what type of mentor you want to find, and a dash of luck to get paired with the right one for your career vision. We're here to help you snatch one of the brilliant career mentors out there.
Having a career mentor is sort of like finding a guardian angel that will look after you, sharing their knowledge and skills to help you set your professional goals, make better career choices, and steer down the right path. Mentors have been through many of the things you’re going through, which means they can share their stories and experience to offer truly exceptional advice. They can even call in favors through their network, or make introductions that help further your success.
Beyond giving you advice, career mentors will challenge you. They will push you beyond your limits so you can achieve the unimaginable. And we all need people that help guide us away from our comfort zones. That’s what growth is all about. The best mentors do this in a way that inspires confidence and motivation, rather than pushing too hard and overwhelming you.
Before you can begin your search for a career mentor, you need to know precisely what you're looking for. Career mentors take on many shapes and forms depending on what you want to achieve from your relationship.
This person will help address your immediate career goals. They're in the exact position you'd like to be at this time next year. Most likely, they have been in your shoes before, which means they can relate to your current experiences and offer real-life advice on what to do.
This type of mentor is excellent when you need actionable advice on the little things, like how to approach a new project, or how to tackle specific tasks in a way you can get to the next level.
These are the mentors that will help you turn your professional dream into a reality. They often come with far more experience and can offer advice on how to grow within your company or field.
This type of mentor should be several years ahead of you in your career, if not more. They likely hold a senior-level position, or have accomplished significant things through self-employment. They should be respected and well-known within your industry or company, with skills that only come from years of experience.
Consider that your ideal mentor may not have the bandwidth to give you as much time as you may need to really benefit from your relationship with them. The informal mentor may balk at the prospect of cultivating an official or long-term relationship, but they will be open to providing occasional advice, checking in, and generally being available for support. Ideally, you should establish at least one official mentor during each phase of your career, but it doesn’t hurt to build a team of unofficial advisors who are ready to provide you with advice on a casual basis.
By now you're probably going down a mental list of everyone you know trying to figure out if they'll be good career mentors. Fantastic, that's a great place to start finding one. But, it's not the only way.
When it comes to finding the perfect career mentor, you should start at your workplace. Look around and ask yourself if any of your peers could become a mentor. Depending on the style of mentor you chose on the previous step, your pool of candidates at work will range from your coworkers to your supervisor, or even the CEO.
If you want to look beyond the walls of your office, then you have to be more creative. Attend local networking events or conferences with speakers you admire. While these leaders might seem unattainable right now, you'll be surprised how many of them actually offer mentorship programs. Drop the fear and sign up for these events — you never know unless you try.
For the introverts out there, don't despair, you can still find a mentor online. With programs such as LinkedIn Career Advice, you can seek career advice from industry leaders on demand. Let LinkedIn do the hard work for you, and enjoy all the benefits of receiving valuable input from quality mentors out there. Or, take to the hashtags! Search for topics from your field, and identify people who are providing thought leadership.
If you can't find a mentor organically, then you may be able to contract a professional mentor. Many industry leaders, often retired ones, offer formal mentorship programs to help people like you and me on their career path. Through these programs, you have scheduled meetings, assignments, and access to not only their knowledge, but also their contacts -- which are just as valuable. While the investment may be a barrier to entry, these programs are often quite fruitful and more structured than a relationship you may develop through your own network.
Let's say you finally figured out who you want as a mentor. Now, the challenging part is how to ask them to become your mentor in the first place. Please, don't just randomly ask someone "would you be my mentor?" because it will, without a doubt, be the most awkward conversation of your life. Instead, practice a more conversational approach that shows your genuine interest.
If you’re struggling to find the words to ask someone to mentor you, then consider using these scripts.
I've been working with you for [X time], and I truly admire the way you do [whatever it is you admire]. I hope one day I can be as good as you are, and I was wondering if you have time to grab lunch. I'd love if you could share some guidance on how to get where you are -- that would be amazing.
I've been working with you for [X time], and I'm fascinated by your experience and your career path. I was wondering if you could help me with [whatever it is you need help with] from time to time. We could grab a coffee or see if we have time to set up internal meetings to discuss my career path. I'm really looking forward to my growth within this company, and your guidance would be truly appreciated.
I’m super impressed by what you’ve accomplished with [things they accomplished], and I could use a little advice. I want to be able to do [whatever they do] as well as you can, and was wondering if you offer any mentorship programs or if you might spare an hour or so to give me some initial guidance – it would be hugely appreciated.
Now, hopefully you’ve identified your mentor! But just finding the right mentor isn't enough. To make the most out of this relationship, you have to make sure to foster as you would any other personal relationship. No matter what style of mentor you choose, you have to stay in touch with them, and bring them value as well.
Keep them updated about your progress, and share how you've managed to handle a specific project thanks to their guidance. Elaborate on career milestones you've accomplished. Share relevant articles or events -- remember, networking is a two-way street. If you have an opportunity, shout out and praise your mentor through your networks or on social media. Just as they have gone out of their way to help you, think of ways you can provide benefit to them, and feedback as a mentee in return. Mentors often benefit from learning what it means to be in your position. They may have had similar experiences, but times change, and workplaces are evolving at an incredibly rapid rate.
Let your mentors be part of your life and circle of professional friends. Even if you don't end up following the steps your mentor set up for you, continue fostering the relationship, as connections are the most valuable asset a professional can have today.