Having a mentor is a fantastic way to enrich your career. Mentors can teach you skills, share knowledge, help you see opportunities and challenges that you might not have seen on your own, and provide advice and guidance through many situations. While mentoring can occur in many different forms, it traditionally refers to a one-on-one relationship between a more experienced person (a mentor) and a less experienced person (a protégé), which is intended to advance the personal and professional growth of the less experienced individual. Mentoring research has demonstrated the power of mentoring in relation to career success, measured both in terms of income and in hierarchical position.
What Makes a Successful Mentoring Relationship?
1) Good fit
The first sign of a good potential mentor is that you admire the person. There is a quality or style of that particular person that resonates with you. Do not hesitate to ask if she or he would be willing to go for a coffee or lunch with you. The worst thing that can happen is that the person is too busy and says no. At least you have put the idea out there that you would love to meet to ask a few questions. The key is to not be afraid to put yourself out there. In my experience, people are honoured to be asked to mentor and, if at all possible, will try to accommodate your request.
2) Clarity of Purpose
Once you have established your objectives, it is easier to gauge how much of a commitment and how much time you are seeking from the other person. For example, the questions that you have may be able to be answered in one sitting over lunch with someone. Alternatively, you might be looking for someone to have a more consistent relationship with. You can be very clear with the person that you would like one hour of time to ask some questions about her or his career path.
In addition to your overall objectives, you want to be prepared for your meeting(s) by thinking through specific questions you have for the person. Here are a few to get you started:
- How did you get to where you are? What was your career path?
- Did you always know what you wanted to do? How did your path change over time?
- What is something you have learned that has had a large effect on your life?
- If you could go back would you change anything?
- What is your strategy for success?
- What are the ideologies that you believe in and live by?
- What inspires you?
- What is the best advice you ever received?
- How did you balance family and work?
- Are you still passionate? How do you stay passionate?
3) Clear Logistics and Boundaries
In addition to being prepared with questions for your mentor, ensure that expectations are clear for both parties. Is this a one-time meeting or are you looking for an ongoing dialogue with the person?
If ongoing, consider:
- How often will you meet?
- Where will you meet?
- When will you meet?
- Who will set up the meetings?
- How long will the relationship last?
There is no doubt that mentoring works and that generally the benefits are mutual, positively influencing both the mentor and the protégé. During your career, you should
seek out mentors whenever possible.
Patricia Barbato is the Founder of Inspire Your Career and the author of the soon to be released Inspire Your Career: Strategies for Success in Your First Years at Work. Patricia is passionate about mentoring and helping people achieve their greatest potential. For more about Patricia, please visit her online at www.inspireyourcareer.com.
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