Let’s be honest, finding a mentor can be kind of awkward. And yet we’re constantly told that one of the best ways to advance in our career is to find one. A long-established practice, mentorship helps you develop your professional skills while also giving you a better sense of how to navigate challenges (and successes) in the workplace. Here are some steps you should take when seeking out a mentor at work.
Figure out what you want to gain from having a mentor
You have to have a reasonable and clearly defined goal. Do you want real, solid, blunt feedback about your performance? Do you want some advice on how to handle a specific work situation? If you’re taking the time to engage in a relationship with another professional, and they’re taking the time to engage with you, there has to be a purpose.
Identify the type of mentor who can help your goals
Now that you have a good grasp on your goals, identify one or two people at your company who can help you achieve them. For example, if you’re working as an account executive on a sales team and your goal is to become a relationship manager, a current relationship manager or account director could be a great mentor.
Develop a mutually beneficial relationship
A good mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways and it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re establishing a relationship with your mentor. The best way to ensure that you’re adding value to the relationship is by asking your mentor if there is any way that you can help them in return. For example, if your mentor is working on a project that you’d like to learn more about, offer to pitch in and help even if it’s not part of your current responsibilities.
Keep an open mind and put yourself out there.
Build your professional credibility and brand. Be smart, resourceful and willing to learn. Raise your hand and take on the tough projects. Have a track record that shows you are on the move up and serious about growing as a leader. Document your brilliance, take credit for your work and be willing to speak up about what you’ve accomplished. A good mentor wants to be associated with a mentee who has a solid work ethic and reputation.
Remember that a mentor can be a peer
Your mentor doesn’t have to be the CEO of a company. In fact, most of those super senior executives are going to flat out tell you they don’t have time to talk to you. But that’s okay, sometimes that means tapping into a peer relationship for that mentoring you’re looking for.
Having a mentor at work can be a wonderful way to advance your career while learning new skills and refining your professional goals. If you’re interested in finding a mentor, having a strong sense of what you want to get out of the relationship (and what you can give back) will go a long way toward helping you establish a great mentor-mentee relationship.
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