When you have strong intentions of growing your career, you must understand you cannot do it on your own. Developing mentoring relationships allows for increased confidence and offers the ability to “talk with people and ask for their feedback.” Regardless of where you are in your career, choosing to rely on a career mentor can aid your career transitions, increase your chance at a promotion, and improve your leadership skills and job satisfaction.

Our friends at The Muse recently revealed 10 essential tips to correctly identify your career mentor and how to construct a meaningful relationship. We break down four of our favorite tips below:

Discover What A Mentor Is & What It Isn’t

Your mentor is there to help you navigate challenges, answer questions, and provide encouragement, but remember the relationship is a two-way street. Your conversations should not become a therapeutic outlet for your struggles. Both the mentor and mentee have valuable information to share. 

There tends to be a belief that career mentors should be older than the mentee, but that is not always the case. Age does bring wisdom, but so do knowledge and experience. For example, if you graduate college and choose to venture into sales, but a classmate chooses the entrepreneurial route, you have both garnered expertise in your selected industries. After a 20-year sales career, you may find yourself wanting to experiment in entrepreneurship. There is sure to be an abundance of wisdom you can gather from tried-and-true entrepreneurs such as your classmate dating two decades back. Older mentors may be more likely to have experience surmounted your current obstacles, but the broader the age gap, the more trouble they will have relating.

Typically, your mentor will be someone in your current (or desired) industry or possessing your preferred role, but this does always have to be the case. Lisa Rabasca Roepe details the many different forms of mentoring, including peer mentoring (someone at the same level as you), group mentoring, and bite-sized mentoring. There is not a required schedule to have a mentor. It is whatever works for both parties and helps achieve what you’re working toward, even if that means meeting once a year. 

Seek Out Different Perspectives

You are well within your right to have multiple career mentors. In fact, it is recommended as it will allow you to tap into the expertise of more topics (and share your knowledge with more individuals as well). There are lessons to be learned from every industry. Seeking out mentors outside of your line of work allows you the chance to learn new skills and gain a new perspective. 

“If you are really going to push yourself and grow, you need a mentor who is different from you, who can give you a different point of view.” -Kathie Patterson, CHRO at Ally Financial.

It is important to remember that having reliable mentors is not an excuse to slow your efforts in other resources. While you are expected to rely on their wisdom, mentoring is not a cure-all for your career. 

Be Specific

Make it easy for your mentor to understand why you are turning to them before anyone else. Clearly define the problem you are facing and the immediate steps you are hoping to achieve. “Being clear with what you’re looking for and why you think this person is the right one will help them to say yes,” says Patterson. Additionally, it is your responsibility to organize the meeting, seeing that you are the one coveting their advice. Whether you both are comfortable with an in-person meeting or merely sending a link through Zoom, it’s best to take the initiative and arrive early. Nothing has to be formal, but being explicit shows that you know and value where their expertise lies and shows that you are mindful of their time.

Know That Mentors Will Likely Change With Your Career

Depending on where you are in your career path, your needs will adjust accordingly. As you progress in your career, the guidance you require will adapt as well. It is not uncommon to lose touch with a career mentor from your entry-level stage. Don’t be afraid of this change. When you step into a managerial role, you may seek advice is learning how to delegate responsibilities and how to stay involved in your team’s culture.

If you lost your job due to an unexpected change or sudden loss of business, you could find consultation from those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding a new mentor with experience relevant to your current situation is paramount. 

Wrap Up

No matter how great your mentors are, it still comes down to you to put in the work and see real progress. Take heed to their advice and quickly layout new goals and activities to achieve them. Beware of falling victim to these three major myths surrounding mentorship.

Show gratitude through a letter of appreciation, a simple text message, or interacting with their posts on LinkedIn. If you want to make the most of your mentoring relationship, show that you care as much as you expect them to care about you.

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