You might have heard the saying ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much’, and that is often true when it comes to your professional career. Whether you’re entering a new career, changing paths, or simply looking to advance – seeking a mentor can help you. Mentorships are an excellent way to interact with others and learn from their experiences. You can find a mentor in any field, and the good news is that it won’t cost you anything. There are plenty of professionals who are willing to offer valuable advice, support, and ideas to help you advance your career. According to this article although 37% of students don’t know where to seek a good mentor, those who do find the right person are five times more likely to get promoted and feel confident about managing their career before and after they start working.
When searching for a mentor, the first step is to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish? It’s key to find someone who is compatible with your goals and will strive to help you achieve them. Often, some of the best mentors are people with whom you are already connected. It’s a wise idea to look into your existing network – a trusted friend, a senior colleague, a senior student, a coach, or a former boss – before looking elsewhere. If there is no one in your circle that is the perfect fit, consider attending networking events or looking for programs through your community hubs. The goal is to put your name out there and inform others that you are interested in working with a mentor. Although this process may feel intimidating, it’s important to not lose sight of all the benefits that can come from a successful mentor/mentee relationship.
There are various ways to reach out and ask someone to be your mentor, or simply express interest. For starters, once you have identified your needs and a person to approach, you can contact them in a clear and professional manner via email or social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn; or you can approach them directly at community events. Specifically, Meetups.ca and Eventbrite.ca are excellent platforms. Professional associations are also great avenues to meet possible mentors, and many offer discounted rates for students. It is important that you do your research prior to meeting to ensure the individual is legitimate. When choosing a mentor that you are not familiar with, you should be more formal. For example, I suggest starting with a request for an informational interview. This will help you break the ice and decide if you want to at some future point ask them to be your mentor:
“I am really interested in learning more about the industry and have come across your profile. I am wondering if you would be interested in providing me some guidance and advice on how I can get started with my career.”
If they agree, you can invite them to meet up in a public space such as a coffee shop or their office to further discuss. Aside from that, you can meet with a mentor virtually via phone conversations or Zoom, especially while physical distancing and remote working are recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make a strong first impression, it’s crucial to arrange a ‘short’ initial meeting where you introduce yourself first, remembering to be polite, flexible, and appreciative of their time. If your initial meeting goes well, you may want to ask to set up regular meetings, working around their availability, for example for an hour once per month or per quarter. Asking someone to mentor you is a big commitment on both sides, so be sure to think about, and communicate, what your goals are for this relationship and what you would like to learn from them.
When considering whether a person is suitable to be your mentor, you must identify first what their key qualities are and how they can be of benefit to you. The person should be an excellent role model who will encourage you to stay focused on your job responsibilities, as well as boost your confidence and drive you towards greater success. As an expert in the industry, they should be open and willing to answer any professional questions, help you expand your network and overall connect you with new opportunities. You will have a more enjoyable and beneficial mentorship experience when you collaborate with someone who suits your personality and has been through a similar experience. Here’s a list of qualities to look out for in a mentor:
- Challenges you to be better
- Has excellent communication skills
- Sensational listener
There are traits and characteristics that make for a good mentee, just as there are distinct characteristics of a successful mentor. This is critical because mentees must realise that mentors are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts because they find it personally and professionally rewarding, thus being a good mentee is the greatest way to ensure that the relationship thrives. Mentees, for example, must be committed to professional and personal improvement, open to feedback, personable, accountable, and eager to learn.
There is no age cap for a mentorship, anyone who expresses interest and is aspiring to better themselves in the workforce is a perfect candidate. Working with a mentor will help you uncover a more positive version of your professional self and link you with the resources you need to succeed at any stage of your career. You will undoubtedly advance professionally, personally, and towards any dream job you envision, if you invest yourself fully in a mentorship relationship.
So, you may be wondering, “After my mentor and I have achieved all our goals, what happens next?” It is strongly advised that you keep your mentorship relationship going by maintaining on-going communication, at minimum via email, and better yet, via phone or in-person/virtual meetings. Their feedback will be continuously valuable, as your paths may cross again in the future. Maintaining a relationship with your mentor can also help you build your career network by keeping you informed about employment trends and new job leads. Above all, you will have had made a lifetime friendship.
By Amanda Lecce, Employability Coach, Career Services