No matter where you are at this point in your life, either personally or professionally, it’s safe to assume that somewhere along the way, you have had some help. At some point during your journey, you were given guidance, encouragement and support. It may have been from a manager, a co-worker, a parent, a teacher, a family member or a friend. Mentors can play a significant role in every aspect of your life. I’d even go so far as to say, you would not be as successful without a mentor!
A mentor is someone whose knowledge and experience you respect and whose wisdom and competence can support your growth. However, in a hybrid world, being a mentor can also mean learning how to listen and participate in reverse mentoring. Where you learn from others, while providing guidance and helping them to help you.
I have had the opportunity to be mentored both personally and professionally, while taking part in reverse mentoring. However, one of the mentoring experiences that resonates with me, even today, is mentoring with at-risk kids. When I first became active in the program, I was still recovering from my mother’s death and I was struggling to make my grief disappear. My hope was that mentoring someone else would provide me with an opportunity to motivate myself. However, I clearly remember looking into the eyes of this 12-year old little girl, who expected me to know everything… and I was terrified that I would come up short! What I discovered though, through listening and paying attention to her, was that I was able to learn so much and become a better mentor in the process, while helping her get over some significant hurdles. At the same time, she helped me to embrace my doubts and gave me the gift of new insights, which in turn helped me to return to work, better prepared to take on new challenges.
Benefits of having a mentor
There may only be one logo on your corporate letterhead, but every company is made up of a diverse culture of people. It is filled with different personalities, work procedures and to be honest, red tape. A mentor can help you navigate this complex landscape and continue to help you develop in your career. Plus it helps an organization by developing well-rounded, knowledgeable professionals. Everybody wins! In a nutshell, here are some key benefits to having a mentor:
Understanding – A mentor can offer you access to years of “been there, done that” experience and knowledge. Mentors can be wonderful for sharing what worked, what didn’t, how to go about achieving your goals and helping you set effective objectives. Just when you thought you had all the answers, a mentor can point out that you really don’t!
Networking –A mentor is ideally someone who can introduce you to people outside of your circle, maybe even those whom you would not normally have access to. The value of a good mentor is immeasurable when it comes to becoming connected to those in the know and who possess the ability to help advance your career.
Perspective –A mentor is great for providing a different view. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the drama at work! Or be limited by your own knowledge. A mentor can help keep you grounded and focused on what’s important while you create your path to success.
Inspiration – Your relationship with your mentor is not like any other. It’s a strong combination of teacher, confidant and cheerleader; all rolled into one. By sharing their insight and knowledge of both the company and the industry, a mentor can help improve workplace morale and demonstrate the values and ethics of the profession they represent.
How to find a mentor
According to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, 75% of private sector executives said that mentoring was critical in helping them reach their current position. If a corporate mentoring program is not available to you, it will be up to you to take the lead in seeking out a mentor.
Not sure where to start if a mentoring program is not readily available to you in your organization? Reach out to the local office of a national mentoring program. Join a community organization that aligns with your values and take advantage of the networking opportunities. Revisit your own list of contacts and find someone whose leadership resonates with you. Sometimes all it takes is getting together for coffee or having a quick lunch to establish a bond. A great way to connect with a mentor at your current company is to collaborate on a project. Collaborating on a project can lead to a deeper relationship during the process.
Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer, Partner, Global Renewable Energy Leader of Deloitte, says, “Have many mentoring moments during critical periods in your career. You don’t have to hang your hat on just one critical mentor. A mentor could be someone you have coffee with once. And that’s okay – and they help you through one thing that you’re curious about. And maybe something else occurs to you 5 years down the road, and you want to call them out for coffee again. Or maybe you have multiple people that you meet throughout your life that have mentored you in different ways. I think what’s critical is that you don’t need one magical person or magic bullet. It can be many mentoring moments, as opposed to a person. And think about it in the evolution of your career.”
The simple truth is: no matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from having one or more mentors. You can build a whole assortment of mentors who will meet different needs at different times in your life.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn and they loved it so much, they featured it on two of LinkedIn Pulse Channels: Careers: The Next Level + Careers: Getting Started, so more people could find it :). See the response here on LinkedIn
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Kaylaa T. Blackwell is an IT Professional working @ Itron, Inc. and a student @ Southern New Hampshire University with a penchant for writing, researching and helping others resolve real world issues. She has a great interest in technology, business and psychology and how they impact each other. The views and opinions expressed in this article belongs to Kaylaa and do not represent the opinions of her employer. Learn more about her here.