By DeVry University
Chances are you've heard about mentors. You may have even had professors, colleagues or friends suggest you find a mentor. But where do you start and what do you stand to gain? Here we break down how professional mentorship works and why you may want to consider it as you move forward on your career path.
What is a professional mentor?
A professional mentor is someone who assists and guides you in pursuing your professional career goals. This person can be a teacher, colleague, acquaintance or someone new. They act as a personal career coach and offer advice, give direction and share relevant professional and personal experiences with you in pursuit of your career goals.
What is the value of a mentorship?
There can be many benefits to mentorship. Here are 4 reasons you might decide to find a mentor:
- Help round out the skills you gained from your education with real-life insights shared by someone who is in a position you admire or wish to pursue.
- Have someone to talk to about work, your education and your professional goals. A mentor may be able to provide more specific advice than family or friends.
- Potentially gain access to a wider network of professionals in a field you want to be successful in.
- Gain your own personal cheerleader – your mentor should be one of your biggest advocates and a great source of encouragement.
What makes a good mentor?
There are plenty of professionals with the desire to help younger or less experienced people find their way to their goals. When you're looking for a mentor, here are some good qualities to keep in mind before you start reaching out:
- Willingness to share and help guide fellow professionals
- Has the time and flexibility to accommodate a mentorship
- Expresses relevant business skills that you can learn from
- Works or has worked in a career path that you're interested in pursuing
How do I find a mentor?
There are plenty of resources available online for professional mentoring programs, but you may also have options through your university or employer.
If you’re still pursuing your degree, a good place to find a mentor is within your school's alumni program. The alumni program is designed for graduates who wish to stay connected to their school, give back to current students and be part of a network of individuals who can support each other in the work world.
If you're working for a company, reach out to your direct supervisor or human resources department to see if there are any mentorship programs in place. Even if the company doesn't have a formal program, you can put this idea on the radar and try to get one started. Studies show that mentorship programs in the workplace can increase employee retention - another great reason to get a program started!
If you're wondering how to find a business mentor online, search on LinkedIn. Browse the topics, fields, and roles you're interested in to see who is active in this space that you could reach out to.
How do I ask someone to be my mentor?
First things first, you have nothing to lose by asking someone for help. In fact, this shows that you are proactive and demonstrates a desire to grow. Asking someone to be your professional mentor can actually be quite a compliment, as it tells them you value their experiences and want to learn first-hand from them.
Here are 4 steps to keep in mind:
- Establish your goals – Take some time to think about why you want a mentor and what you hope to get out of the relationship. Your simple answer might be to “get support as I pursue a new job” or “grow my skillset in a specific area” – but those may not lead to a fruitful conversation. Outlining your goals, questions and concerns will help you be more prepared and focused as you begin this new journey.
- Set up a time to talk & prepare in advance - By setting a time to talk, you're letting your potential mentor know that this is important to you. With a time set, you can prepare for the conversation and plan for the best possible outcome - a yes from your new mentor!
- Create a plan for your mentorship - Clearly identify what you hope to get out of this experience, the time commitments and any milestones you want to achieve along the way. This will help your prospective mentor understand your aims and figure out if they are the best fit for you. If they're not the best person to help you with your goals, then maybe they can recommend someone better suited.
- Thank them for their time - Let your potential mentor know how much you not only value their time for this initial discussion but also how valuable their time will be to you through the course of a mentorship. This will demonstrate your respect towards them and let them know you're very serious about this experience.
How do I maintain a good mentoring relationship?
When the relationship is started, it's important to nurture it to ensure you both get the most out of the experience.
- Start by communicating with trust and respect and being open to listening. You may not always think their stories or suggestions are relevant at the time, but they're worth listening to. You never know when you might encounter similar situations down the road where that advice could help you.
- Understand that a relationship takes two people and work collaboratively to solve problems. The power of two heads is better than one, and that's part of the reason you signed up for this in the first place!
- Throughout the course of the relationship, keep each other updated on expected responsibilities and timelines. There will be times when you're working toward a time-sensitive goal and need clear expectations laid out upfront. This will help both of you stay on track and give you a greater chance of making it happen.
- As time passes, change is inevitable. By checking in frequently with each other to understand the outside professional and personal responsibilities at play, you can be respectful of each other's time outside of the relationship and be more understanding and adaptable to change.