You can take the next step in your career by getting a professional mentor. Read on to learn how!
I became a better employee and more employable once I got a mentor.
When I was in college, I had a phone interview with a company for an HR Intern position. I received a call a couple of days later stating that I didn’t get the job, but something interesting happened. Katie, my would-be boss, told me she thought I had strong potential (but not the right experience) and offered to mentor me instead.
Looking back now, I realize that was like a gold bar falling into my lap. I accepted the offer and we met for coffee the next week. That was the beginning of a seven year mentoring relationship.
We parted ways in the last year due to our hectic personal lives (we both became moms!) and our careers moving in separate directions.
But, I can say that I would not be where I am today without having a mentor.
Here are 6 ways getting a mentor has changed my life (and I know it will change yours, too!)
1. Your network instantly grows
I honestly hate networking. Network might as well be a four letter word in my book. Meeting strangers in a forced interaction format? No thanks.
But…that’s not the only way to grow your network. Having a mentor is basically an instant extension of your network. Your mentor’s network is just an ask away, so utilize it.
Years ago, I mentioned to my mentor that I was ready for a career change. Before I could even ask her for ideas, she had the contact info of her fellow recruiter friend on a piece of paper for me. Three weeks later, I was starting my new job.
Yes, it was that easy. And as you see, all she had to do was write a name and phone number on a piece of paper for me. It’s not like I had asked her to do anything out of her way.
My mentor got me in the door with someone in her network and then it was my job to make everything else happen. Without her network, I wouldn’t have even known about that open position and who knows where I’d be in my career today.
2. You can tell your mentor things you can’t tell your manager
At one point in my professional career, I had a manager that I thought would drive me out of my role. She was pushy and threw all of my coworkers under the bus whenever she got the chance. It was a very hostile environment.
Because of this, my meetings with my mentor that year were entirely focused on how to “deal” with my manager at the time. She provided me with so much guidance that it really made my situation manageable. By the time my manager moved to a different company, I felt like I had finally won my manager over.
In another role, I had a situation where there were ethical concerns with my manager. I talked to my mentor and she encouraged me to report them. Because of that, my manager was moved to a different role in the company and one of my much deserving coworkers got promoted.
I obviously couldn’t talk to my manager about my ethical concerns with her behavior, so it was awesome to have a mentor to share this with. Plus, my manager was moved to another role that was more clear on ethical standards and less hours for her. It was a win-win.
3. You get an outsider’s perspective
Sometimes you are too close to the situation to know what is truly going on. Having issues with a coworker? Unsure how to consult with someone from a different department? Your mentor can provide unbiased feedback on these situations because she doesn’t know them personally.
Maybe you are working on a project that you’re struggling with what to do next. Since your mentor is at a different company, she can maybe offer guidance to how she handled a similar project at her company. (Sidenote: I strongly recommend you seek a mentor outside of your company and even outside of your job function if you can).
I had trouble making a personal decision that would have affected my work life, as well. I felt the tug of being a wife, and wanting to put my family first, but I also wanted to make my career a priority. My mentor recommended Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg to help me with this decision. It was something I toyed with for months over many sleepless nights and lots of prayer, and I was able to figure out a solution with a single recommendation from an outsider.
4. You have someone who has your best interests in mind
When I left my previous company to come to my new company, it was completely my mentor’s suggestion. Although I didn’t hate my old job, I wasn’t challenged and wasn’t happy. She suggested looking at other companies for positions because my issues with my job also stemmed from the company I worked at.
Since my mentor didn’t have to worry about losing me on her time like a manager would be, she was able to offer me an honest viewpoint. She wanted the best for me regardless of where I worked. (If you have a manager like this, that’s awesome!)
Aside from the job search, your mentor also focuses on improving you. She might challenge you to do that one thing you have avoided for months. Your mentor might encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and ask for that raise.
Whatever it might be, your mentor is focusing on mentoring you, not managing you. Trust me, there’s a difference.
Even the best managers cannot mentor you to your fullest potential. Your manager likely manages other people who are just as important as you. Your manager probably has his or her own job to make the company succeed as well. By juggling all other priorities, you cannot get the attention you need from your manager.
Mentors, on the other hand, specifically work on improving you, in whatever capacity that may mean. Plus, you likely both work, so your time together is likely outside of work where you can really focus on one another.
5. There is always something you can learn
No matter where you are in your career, there is always going to be someone more successful than you are. There is always going to be someone who knows more than you about something.
You will always have an opportunity to learn something from someone. I leave every mentor meeting with something new to add to my toolbox.
Whatever it is we talk about, I always soak it up. She is taking time out of her day to share her knowledge and experiences with me so the least I can do is take it and use it.
If she recommends a book, I read it. If she mentions an article, I find it. If you take a mentoring relationship seriously, you should constantly learn from it.
6. You’ll be able to move through your career quicker
I once mentioned that I have a mentor when I was answering a job interview question (I’ve slept since then so I don’t remember what the question was) and the interviewer was impressed. She said it showed her that I have the drive to move forward in my career and that’s what she was looking for.
I actually received a job offer from that interview. Was it entirely because I mentioned I have a mentor? I’d hope not. Did it help me get a job offer? You betcha.
Aside from “looking good”, having a mentor has allowed me to work on things I struggle with to move up in my career.
I’ve always struggled with confidence. My mentor knows this and constantly offered things I could do (sometimes out of my comfort zone) to help me gain confidence. I’d venture a guess that becoming more confident has helped me move up into my current role.
If you don’t have a mentor in your life, find someone you admire professionally and ask him or her to become your mentor. Trust me, it will push your career to a whole new level!
What experience have you had with a mentor? Share your experiences below!