How Having a Mentor can Help you Succeed
While networking is a proven way to enhance your professional profile and maximize the number of opportunities that come your way, a mentor can take your career to the next level.
The relationship with a mentor is closer, with an emphasis on long-term growth. The role of a mentor is so important in developing young talent that many companies now set up formal programs in house.
If you don’t happen to work for such a business, your first step will be finding a mentor. A fortunate few will click with an experienced professional they meet through an internship or job. Others will have to put in a little work to cultivate that relationship.
Don’t talk to strangers
In her book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg likened approaching strangers and asking them to mentor to the famous Dr. Seuss book, “Are You My Mother,” in which a baby bird searches for a parent (Forbes, 2011). Chasing a connection rarely works, she says.
Instead, look first at people at work or school. They are familiar with your skillset and work ethic, which means they’ll be more likely to agree to a mentoring relationship.
If you volunteer in the community, consider leaders in those organizations as possible mentors (Forbes, 2013). They might not be familiar with the specific industry in which you plan to work, but they will still be able to provide valuable tips and guidance.
Professors can make wonderful mentors, too. At Ashford, many instructors have worked for decades in their fields. They turn to teaching because of a desire to inspire their students, a trait that makes them wonderful mentors. Some professors might not have time to mentor, but they might be able to refer you to a former colleague who does. Ask!
If that option doesn’t pan out, an organization such as studentmentor.org can help pair students and professionals across the country.
The biggest benefit of having a mentor is having the ear of someone with “been there, done that” perspective.
Mentors can offer counsel about issues and problems, helping you learn from their experiences, good and bad.
They also help clarify goals and thinking, improving your critical-thinking skills by trouble-shooting ideas and projects.
Making the mentorship work
A key to building effective relationships with mentors is to respect their time. Don’t fire off an email or text and expect an immediate response. Most professionals can’t respond quickly, and some might not respond well to the intrusion.
Instead, plan time with your mentor as you would any business meeting. A written agenda helps keep talks on topic and ensures that you cover everything.
The discussions will vary depending on the situation you’re facing. Some meetings might revolve around a current project. Others could address overarching questions: How to deal with a difficult co-worker or how to reach the next level professionally.
Be sure to ask your mentor about his or her week, too. A genuine dialogue can lead to valuable insights about topics not even on your radar.
Along with seminars and other career services Ashford offers, a mentor can be a vital part of your career development tool kit. You’ll gain vital insight from a professional in the field, and you’ll cultivate an important connection that can serve you well for years to come.
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Written by Ashford University staff.
Forbes (2011). Ten Things Sheryl Sandberg Gets Exactly Right In ‘Lean In’ Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/03/04/10-things-sheryl-sandberg-gets-exactly-right-in-lean-in/
Forbes (2013). Finding A Mentor Is Easier Than You Think Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/01/06/finding-a-mentor-is-easier-than-you-think/