Quick Guide: How to Find a Mentor at Work
A mentor at work is of top importance if you want to progress your career.
Mentorship is helpful for all stages of professional development and industry areas. Surely a graduate will have different mentoring needs to management professionals. But this only means that your mentorship needs to evolve the same as your career evolves.
There are many reasons to get a mentor at work and here are some of the most important:
A mentor at work will
- provide you with advice tailored to yourself and tailored to your situation.
- provide you with an honest evaluation of your current situation and advice on skills you will need to progress for your future ambitions.
- know what it takes to get to the top and will provide you honest, practical, and straightforward answers to your career questions.
- recommend how to showcase your skills and achievements efficiently to get noticed by the right people in your organization.
I would even go as far as to say that it is never too early to have a mentor at work. Therefore, this post is all about finding the right mentor at work for you.
5 Simple Steps to Find a Mentor at Work
1. Identify What You Want to Achieve – What to Look for in a Mentor at Work
There is no one-size-fits-all in finding the right mentor at work and the process starts with yourself. What are your career goals and which direction would you like your career to go? What is important to you? Becoming a manager in contrast to becoming a technical expert has different needs and requires different support.
Answering these questions will determine what to look for in a mentor at work.
This sounds easier than done and will change over time. I recognized that my mentoring needs evolved during my career progression and also while I started to understand what makes a good manager. Originally, I was only looking after a promotion but later I refined this to “I would like to be a people manager who is recognized and respected across the whole business”. This leads me personally to determine my development needs in the field of communication and leadership.
2. Identify the Right Person – Who Could Be Helpful
Based on the goal you identified in step one, you will be able to look for the right type of person. Think about people at work who have achieved your goals already, who is very well regarded, and whose management and leadership do you admire.
Once you have identified a potential mentor at work, continue doing your homework. Is the person well regarded and respected by co-workers and management? Do they have special achievements? Does the person have experience in different companies and industries?
Just because a person has achieved your dream career goal it isn’t a guarantee to be a good fit. Look for someone you can identify your future self with.
3. Ask Them – How to Approach a Mentor at Work
This might feel a bit intimidating at first but it is easier than you think. Just ask!
You already identified what you need mentoring on and who you would like to work with. Tell them these reasons when you approach them. This is all they would want to know from you at this point. Chances are high that they actually will feel flattered by your request. The reason is simple. You identified them as great mentor which proves that their hard work pays off and is visible to the wider company.
Please do not jump to this step though before identifying what you need help with. If you are unclear you likely won’t receive the right advice. If your mentor is a very good professional, she will recognize this too and likely reject your request. After all their time is valuable and they want to make sure it is well spent.
4. Schedule Regular Meetings – When to Get Mentoring
You will be the person responsible to make this relationship work! So you need to do the legwork of scheduling the meetings, find a meeting room, and buy the coffees. Because after all, you are the main beneficiary of the mentoring process.
How often you will have mentoring sessions will depend on your mentoring needs and your mentor’s schedule. The more senior you are, the more likely it is that you find yourself often in situations where advice would be helpful. However, be respectful to your mentor’s schedule and be flexible about this.
I am in my first people management role and I found a great mentor in my department’s leadership. 30min every two weeks works well for both of us. Sometimes it is even more frequent if particularly difficult situations arise for me. Here it pays off to have a good relationship. Because the better the relationship is the more willing your mentor will be to spend time with you frequently.
5. Be Open to Advice – How to Make the Most Out of Mentoring
The whole point of mentoring is to evolve yourself. So please keep an open mind to advice.
A mentor is more of a teacher who shares his valuable experience with you. So focus on listening and clarifying. You are free to apply the advice or not. However, if the advice challenges your belief system, the mentoring session is not the place to start an argument. If your mentor doesn’t feel that you are an open person to advise, she might not want to continue the mentoring because her time is not well spent.
Also, as we grow our belief system grows too. I sometimes look back at the advice I received and didn’t get back then. With some distance in time and personal growth, the advice becomes my golden nugget.
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