A good mentor can be critical to your career success. That’s why it’s imperative that you find one early on.
“Mentors can help recent graduates add ‘street smarts’ to their book smarts,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”
Early in your career, these advisers can help you with your résumé, give you constructive feedback, help you navigate difficult challenges — and can even refer you to invaluable contacts, among other things, she explains.
“The best mentors really help to enhance your professional development through their experience and skillsets,” says Taylor. “The goal of this partnership is to help the mentee better navigate their career; but in any good mentoring relationship, the mentor is also gaining valuable insight.”
Taylor believes that everyone, especially those just starting out, can benefit from a mentor.
“You know you need one if you feel you could use greater guidance in your career or job, but are also motivated enough to commit to the success of such a partnership,” she explains.
And if you’re thinking, “I don’t need a mentor; I have a supportive family,” think again, she says.
“It’s great — and critical — to have a strong support system of family and friends as you proceed in your career. They will encourage you, provide a general sounding board, and ideally be good listeners,” Taylor explains. “But they typically lack the ability to provide specific job or career advice; it’s not always easy for them to understand your job dynamics or industry, even though their intentions are well meaning. So they aren’t a replacement for a mentor.”
Unlike family or friends, good mentors may be more candid with you when you veer from your path. “They will diplomatically guide you to better decision-making, as they will be closer to the sphere in which you work,” she says. “Assuming you’ve chosen your mentor well, you will have the perspective of someone who knows the ropes and will provide shortcuts to success in your particular field.”
Taylor offered some tips for a successful mentor-mentee relationship:
- Establish mutual guidelines at the start of your partnership. For instance, find out how your mentor likes to communicate and how often.
- Try different techniques, such as discussing different types of experiences. Consider having more than one mentor (where their skillsets don’t exactly overlap).
- Consider shadowing your mentor for an inside view of how they manage their day.
- Take cues from your mentor on how they manage you; that will come in handy as you supervise and coach others in your career.
- Plan ahead before meetings with agendas, and always remain thoughtful of your mentor’s time.
- Show your gratitude for their efforts all along the way.
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