Whether you are in business for yourself or building a career, you don’t have to do it alone. Nor should you. Seriously, whatever your business, if you want success, you have to learn from and be supported by those who have done it before you.
The benefits of mentorship are many and varied. In today’s blog post, Alan Henry from Lifehacker.com shares why mentorship is what you might need to take your career (or your business) to the next level.
Find a Mentor to Take Your Career to the Next Level
by Alan Henry
If you feel a bit stagnant in your current role, or just want a way to learn the skills you’ll need to get promoted or move up in your career, find a career mentor. A mentor can offer you the benefit of experience, unbiased advice, and expertise you can learn from in the skills that are necessary for the direction you want to take your career.
Over at the Glassdoor Blog, writer Donna Fuscaldo explains that finding a mentor may be a challenge, but it’s a worthwhile one to tackle if you think you’ll be staying at a company for a while, or you think there’s someone at that company who has something valuable to teach you. It might be tempting to just march up to the CEO or the COO and ask them to be your mentor (since after all, you’ll be running the place someday or starting your own company, right?) but if you don’t already have a relationship with one of those executives, it’s probably not a good idea.
Instead, pick a director or manager in another department that you’ve had positive dealings with in the past. Ask them to chat over lunch, and let them know that you’re interested in learning from their expertise, and want to know if it would be okay to ping them from time to time about how things are going, or to ask their advice now and again. Ideally, your career mentor is someone you already know and has skills that you know you’ll need. Fuscaldo explains:
Once you’ve pinpointed your mentor or mentors you have to come up with a good reason why you want that person to advise you. For instance, if you admire how that person handles herself in a meeting, then ask her for tips on giving presentations. If you want to improve your customer relations skills, compliment your potential mentor on his knack for dealing with disgruntled customers. “You have to say, ‘the reason I am hoping you’ll mentor me in this one area of my career is because I love the way you handle yourself in meetings,'” says Bauke. “It’s easy for them to say yes because there’s something you admire about them.” By providing specifics, you are giving the mentor a path for success instead of making it feel like work for them, she says.
You may also consider having more than one mentor, if you can’t find one person with the skills you want to pick up. The word “mentor” is often taken to mean someone who needs to be hands-on and supervisory in nature, but that’s not necessarily the case: someone you grab lunch with from time to time and talk to somewhat regularly is more than enough. Half of finding a good mentor is eliminating the stigma around the title and just asking someone who has the job that you want for advice.
We’ve talked briefly about how to find a mentor or even why you might want to consider a younger mentor if you’re looking to make a career move, but in any case, a good mentor can help you grow your professional network (which remember, is just code for “friends who are willing to help each other out professionally when they can”,) teach you the ins and outs of the types of jobs you’re interested in, and offer you the kind of unbiased, unclouded advice that will help you make smart decisions for your career.
Have you ever turned to a mentor to help you with your business or career? How did it work out and what changes did you make? Let me know in the comments below.