Whether you are starting a new career or transitioning into a new position, it pays to have a helping hand guiding you through the process. While some people may think that you need to do it all on your own, the reality is that it is just easier with a little bit of direction. That is why it is absolutely vital that you try and find a mentor at the workplace.
Think of the greats. Michael Jordan didn’t become an NBA legend without looking up to someone who walked that same path. Steve Jobs did not find the inspiration without his predecessors laying down the brickwork. When it comes down to it, a mentor can provide a fresh new perspective and an institutional knowledge about your employer, your industry, and your future. These individuals allow you to benefit from their own personal experience so that you can anticipate various obstacles that you can eventually leverage in your favor. By having this helping hand, many individuals, including myself, have benefited personally and professionally throughout their lives.
So with a mentor, what type of qualities should you look for in an ideal advisor? What about them personally and professionally should catch your eye?
When it comes down to your search, you want to find someone that you can respect. Oftentimes, people pick mentors based on their age or their title. While this may be beneficial, especially if your company values rankings within that way, it does not represent holistically the myriad of characteristics that represent you. Make sure that you can find an individual with the beliefs and opinions that you can respect. Beyond respect, you also want to find someone who is supportive. Just having an individual with all the best qualities is not enough. When push comes to shove, you want to make sure that the person who is guiding you is also willing to support you in every which way. If you find that they are too busy or uncooperative, you may have to look for a new mentor. If, however, they are willing to spend the time to help you reflect on your decisions or your future, then you are in good hands. Last but not least, you want to make sure that your mentor is willing to offer constructive criticism. Just because you have done all the right things does not necessarily define you as perfect. At the workplace, you will always find room to grow. The minute that growth stops is the minute you should reconsider your position. For a mentor, that type of advice and criticism is something that will push you further than before.
With that being said, how can I find a mentor at the workplace?
When finding a mentor, you want to make sure that this person fills out the various requirements discussed above. Start off by asking yourself what you want in a mentor. This can be someone who can advise you professionally or this can be someone who can aid you personally. Whatever is the reason, make sure your goals are aligned. Once you have figured out what you want in a mentor, check to see if your human resource department has a mentorship program. For big firms, they usually try and pair off their employees with certain veterans, especially those groomed for management. If your job does not have this as an option, try and look for an individual at your workplace with both the academic background and work experience that fits your ideal status. This will allow you to hone in on specific individuals who have already made positive examples of them at the office. Last but not least, if you cannot find that individual, look outside of your workplace. Mentorship does not have to be a business relationship. You can find mentors outside of the workplace from associations you belong to, activities you are involved in, and even friends or relatives that can help shape your professional future.