How to Avoid the #1 Career Mistake: Not Having a Mentor
We talk about mentors a lot- from softball coaches to swimming trainers to a high school teacher. When we are growing up, almost every adult could be considered a mentor for one reason or another. But many times when we enter the workforce, the general idea seems to be that our training is finished and we no longer need a mentor. Unfortunately, this is a huge mistake. Our success in the business world can be directly connected to whether or not we have a mentor. Having a career mentor can help us continue to grow, to make better business decisions, to find our career direction, and give us the motivation we need. The following tips can help you to avoid this mistake and find a mentor to help you be successful in your field.
Look for a mentor program within your company. Many companies offer a mentor program, but it may not be advertised. Check with work mates who have been with the company for a while to see if there is anyone available to mentor. However, keep in mind that the person with the most seniority in your current company may not be the best choice for a mentor. Find someone who can help you with your career goals, who you respect and can look up to as a good example. If you are a woman, your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman, and the same is true with men.
Action tip: Take some time to think about what you would like to learn and in what areas you would most benefit from having a mentor. Now think about who could help you the most in those areas in your current company and ask them if they would be willing to be your mentor, explaining to them the qualities you admire and the things you want to learn from them.
Take your mentoring relationship seriously. If you want to have a mentor, you have to be serious about keeping in touch with them regularly to benefit from their wisdom and expertise. Many choose to make a formal agreement to help both parties take their new relationship seriously. Make a schedule together and stick to it. Decide together whether you will meet weekly, monthly or something else based on your goals. Otherwise, you mentor will probably feel that he could have chosen a different, more appreciative person to mentor. Remember that having a mentor is an asset and view them as your biggest supporter.
Action tip: Decide on an action plan before you meet with your mentor. What would be doable with your current schedule for you to get the most out of a mentor relationship? Are there any projects you could work on together? Is there a specific part of the company or business world you would love to know more about? Share your plans with your mentor, but be willing to be flexible based on his or her availability.
You can have more than one mentor. Perhaps you want to learn the management aspect of your department from one experienced colleague, but admire the forward thinking of another? You can learn from them both! Many think they can only choose one mentor at a time, but you can really learn from multiple mentors. Keep in mind that you may not need one mentor for as long as another, and make sure to let your mentors know that you are being mentored in other areas. This can help them really focus in on the specific areas you want them to help you in.
Action tip: If you are having trouble identifying that one perfect person to be your mentor that is OK. Create a list of three people you respect that have qualities you would benefit from learning. Approach them separately and ask them if they would help you with a certain area while others help you in a different area. Follow the same steps as above.