How a great mentor (or two) can help you develop a successful career

In a hyperactive, competitive world where there are always more choices and decisions to make than you have time for, its become ever more important to have a constant source of sound advice.

Great Mentor: Mentor in block letters

Research shows that people with mentors tend to be more successful than those without. They are more satisfied with their jobs, have higher salaries, make excellent career progress, develop strong networks and are committed to their jobs and employers.

Some firms set up mentoring programs to identify and develop talent. In others you have to find your own mentor or struggle without one.

Either way, if you don’t have a great mentor yet, its high time you found one.

What is a great mentor and why do you need one?

A great mentor is usually an experienced colleague who will help you make the right choices during your personal and professional development. Someone you can turn to when you need advice. Someone who’ll share their knowledge so you can develop your own strategies. Someone wise whose experiences you can draw upon when you’re trying to make difficult decisions of your own.

Does a mentor have to be someone from your company?

Your mentor can be a senior colleague at your company; someone in the industry who’s achievements you admire; or someone inspirational in your networking circles such as Levo League and of course LinkedIn.

A mentor cannot be a peer. When you’re trying to figure out who you want to be and where you want to go, you want advice from someone who’s already figured it all out. Not someone who’s struggling beside you!

Can you have more than one mentor?

Of course you can have more then one mentor. You can have as many as you like but too many and you’ll end up where you started: lost and bewildered on your first day at work.

So be thoughtful and be picky. Think in terms of good old-fashioned career progression. Where do you want to be a year from today? Five years? What would be a bird’s eye view of your personal and professional development: your aptitude as leader and manager; your capacity for strategic and tactical decisions; your skills and knowledge? The people who inspire you should be able to help you develop these capabilities in many different ways.

If after all that, you find yourself staring at a career change, well, you’ll still need a mentor. Find one who has made the same change you have. It will save you a lot of time and probably some painful experiences too. Your ‘career change’ mentor will hopefully share their mistakes and successes, introduce you to the right networks, and help you navigate the new direction you have chosen.

Will a mentor affect the way I work?

A mentor had better affect the way you work otherwise they are useless. Your mentor will help you work with your strengths and address your weaknesses. They will help you identify and obtain the skills and training you need. As a senior colleague or industry professional, your mentor can ensure you attend the ‘right’ events, meet the ‘right’ people and avail all the ‘right’ opportunities. Sometimes, progress is all about being at the right place at the right time. Your mentor can help you get there.

How do I develop a relationship with a mentor?

Remember to be thoughtful and considerate. Your mentor is giving up valuable time to speak with you. Treat their time with respect.

So next time you’re concerned about your salary, a promotion or a foreign placement – or even if you’re just frustrated at work, talk to your mentor before you make a decision you might regret. Hopefully they’ll help you take the guesswork out of the unkown.

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