Growing up, I was raised to give the utmost respect to elders. To this day, especially in a professional setting, I sense myself subconsciously shifting my language and behavior while in the presence of seniority, people who are older or with more experience. I have always been curious and full of questions. I look up to any individual that can shed light and provide guidance with their own personal expertise, whether it is within the latest in the industry I am in or how they handle themselves during hard discussions with colleagues. Throughout my career, I have quickly learned how key it is to find those individuals that you respect and can reach out to for support – in other words, a mentor.

These individuals come in many shapes, and there are multiple ways to define a mentor. A mentor is an individual in or outside of your organization whom you can lean on and receive constructive feedback and instruction from. This guidance is given without the expectation of personal or monetary gain on the mentor’s part. Mentors can be friends, relatives, coworkers, teachers, supervisors, etc. There is no official title or requirements. As a mentor, much like being a teacher or trainer, you too can benefit from mentoring someone. Mentorship isn’t a one-way street. While you mentor, you can see things in a new light and learn more about yourself professionally, and personally. Mentorship gives you the chance to become a problem solver and advance your career by managing and taking the lead of someone else’s talents and frustrations.

Learn the importance of mentorship, find out how you can ask someone to be your mentor, and get tips on keeping one. Or if the opportunity rises, determine whether you have what it takes to be a mentor yourself.

What's the difference between a manager and a #mentor? Find out. #mentorship #careersuccess Click To Tweet

Why have a mentor?

According to DegreeSearch.org, when mentees have a mentor to lean on, their overall productivity is increased by 88%. Meanwhile, 35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months. There are multiple reasons a mentor is recommended, but in short:

  • No task or question is too silly to bring to a mentor, whether it’s guidance on updating and building your resume or support on how to handle a work-related situation. Also, no one is too good or too experienced to have a mentor. In fact, some of the most successful people, managers, and CEOs have had mentors throughout their careers.
  • No matter what your goal is, a mentor can help. Whether it is career growth or career change, having a mentor to help guide you through those spurts or introduce you to new connections is key.
  • Hold yourself accountable. If you don’t have someone to go to for support or someone who will hold you accountable and encourage you, it can be easy to lose hope or personal drive within the daily struggles of growth within your career.

Think about how many years we spend in school as a child. Until we are 18 years old, we attend classes on a yearly basis, taking instruction from teachers. Most likely that habit of education carries through college, and in some cases even further than undergrad. When we enter the working world, why should we lose sight of that concept of having a teacher or mentor? I know what you’re thinking – of course, we typically have bosses or direct managers once we graduate and start a career. However, a mentor can be utilized and more beneficial in different ways than your direct manager.

35% of employees who don't experience #mentorship start job searching within 12 mos. Click To Tweet

Manager or Mentor? What is the difference?

It is important to note that there is a difference between ones’ manager and mentor. Managers dictate employees’ roles in terms of day-to-day, and they are the direct authority. On the other hand, mentors offer a broader and longer-term view that creates a path to their mentees’ future outside of their daily tasks, specific role, and the organization they work for. Managers can provide guidance on your role and future path within the company, but they may not be the best to ask for support when it comes to other professional-based issues you may come across.

How to Find and Keep a Mentor

Finding a mentor can take time. However, the best place to look is usually right in front of you. Think of someone that you admire, an individual that continues to impress you. They can be a past colleague or current. If your company doesn’t have a mentorship program already in place, it is your responsibility to take control of your career and future by finding and obtaining your own mentor.

Even though it is recommended for an individual to experience mentorship throughout their professional and personal life, you should only have a mentor if you, too, are willing to make that commitment. Mentors are taking time out of their day to support you and hear you out. It takes time and dedication from a protege or mentee to not only find a mentor but to keep one.

  • First, you must be willing to ask for help. This isn’t always easy, especially in a professional setting when you are trying to impress your peers and leaders.
  • Schedule organized time, and work well with others. The ball is in your court when it comes to many of the meetings, emails, and advice that you seek. You should be the one in charge of keeping up with check ins and providing your mentor with plenty of time to respond to something for which you may need direction. However, maintaining a successful mentorship relationship falls on both parties. It is best to discuss these things ahead of time: contact and response times, scheduled meetings, and the main focus and overall goal.
  • You need to be able to take constructive criticism. If your mentor doesn’t always provide that, request for them to be more honest with their advice. You can only advance and grow in your career if you hear what needs to be said, and then turn it around in a productive manner.

Do you have what it takes to be a mentor?

To be a great mentor, you should already have your professional career in order. However, you need to ask yourself, do you have the desire to help someone? Do you want to provide support and advice to someone in need? You don’t get paid for this or receive any awards. This is a commitment, and you need to have the energy and willingness to have those uncomfortable conversations that can take place as a mentor. Hopefully you have had a mentor in your past or currently have a mentor from whom you have gained experience and knowledge. As a new mentor, you can then apply those lessons when guiding your mentee.  As a mentor, through hard work and the willingness you are signing up for as becoming a mentor, there are also incredible benefits you will see in return. Studies show that when you are mentoring effectively, you are also walking your talk. You are going to practice what you preach while you guide your mentee through their career breakthroughs and learnings.

At the end of the day I like to remember:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Your personal and professional growth can only increase with the help or helping others. I recommend that you go out there and find your mentor(s). For those of us that are still early in their career, in due time you will have the opportunity to become a mentor, so begin learning now. Remember, just as if you were to rescue a pet, the life you end up changing by paying it forward and helping someone out as being their mentor, can very well end up being your greatest learning and accomplishment, professionally and personally.

How has mentorship helped advance your career? Share in the comments!

'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' #mentorship Click To Tweet