The best are wise and trusted teachers
The concept of mentorship can mean many things to many people. Ask 10 business professionals what mentorship means to them, and you will probably get 10 different answers. However, in doing so, you will also most likely receive a few similar themes that emerge from their answers. Mentorship can be a significant part of your overall career success, both early on in your career and even late in your professional life. A strong and trusted mentor is someone who can provide you with a solid baseline of career support, someone who will keep you grounded, and someone who will help you remain self-aware throughout your career journey.
WHY DO WE NEED A MENTOR?
We do not always have the answers to every possible challenge that is thrown our way in our jobs. That is why we have mentors to help us and guide us through some of our challenging days at work. Mentors can help guide you through situations such as problems with coworkers and potential career-growth opportunities that are presented to you. They can help you improve upon your soft skills (communication, networking, decision-making), offer up ideas around strategy and provide advice around career progression and promotion.
A mentor is someone who will keep you grounded in your professional journey and provide direction that you may not be getting from your supervisor or other coworkers. In an effort to improve upon certain skills in our lives, a mentor acts as a career coach and our career champion. A mentor essentially fills those gaps that are missing from your career and professional development growth.
THE ROLE OF A MENTOR
The definition of a mentor is “wise and trusted counselor or teacher; an influential senior sponsor or supporter.” As I read this true definition of a mentor, a few words jump off the page. Those words are trusted, influential and supporter. A strong mentor must be all three of these things: someone who you can absolutely trust during those times when you need guidance, someone who can be influential, someone who you look up to and respect their advice and feedback and someone who will support you in any way they can to further grow your career.
A mentor is someone you can share ideas with without fear of embarrassment. You should have a level of understanding with your mentor that no matter what the subject matter may be or how crazy an idea may seem, it is OK to have these types of conversations and feel comfortable doing so. An ideal mentor should be willing to invest time and support in your professional development and have a strong desire to help you succeed.
WHERE TO FIND YOUR MENTOR
Your mentor should be someone within your same profession, or one who is closely aligned to what you do. You want to identify someone who you can relate to in your professional life, someone who has a perspective of the daily trials that you encounter and can offer advice or insight that is appropriately aligned to your career.
Your mentor can also come from different stages within their career. While it is highly encouraged to seek out someone who is more senior to you in experience and leadership, don’t hesitate to consider a mentor that could be your peer, one who you could potentially relate to better than someone who may be senior to you. No matter what level of career experience, leadership or management they may have, the most important factor of your mentor is that it is someone who you look up to at any stage of their career.
YOUR ROLE AS A MENTEE
In order for you to experience the full benefits of mentorship, be aware of your own role as a mentee. Keep in mind, this is a two-way relationship between yourself and your mentor. There are a number of important aspects of the relationship that you need to manage in order for your relationship to be effective and valuable. As a mentee, you must give back in some way to your mentor. Become a relationship driver for them by helping them grow their own professional network through you. Be open to hearing their daily challenges and offer advice as to how you think they could manage a situation. Have a strong level of belief and confidence in your mentor. Become an active listener and learner and be open and respectful of their advice, feedback and those hard conversations you may have every so often.
It is also important to invest your time into your mentor, be present when speaking with them and ensure you have regularly scheduled check-ins with your mentor in order to sustain the relationship. It is important to realize that this relationship is not just benefiting you but your mentor as well. Treat your relationship in a way that it is not one-sided with all the benefits coming to you. Do your part to inspire and educate your mentor, because one day, you too will find yourself in a situation where you become an impactful mentor to someone.
The writer is the executive director of career services at the University of Florida, Hough Graduate School of Business.