Many organisations have mentorship programmes that help entry and mid-level employees to benefit from the experience of seasoned staff.
Even if your place of employment does not offer such a programme, you can seek a mentor yourself, either inside or outside of your company.
You may choose a person who works in your industry, or you can seek an individual who is simply successful, and one that can impart wisdom on becoming a better professional, even if not in your direct field.
When choosing which person to ask to mentor you, you should ask a few questions to determine if they will be a right fit for you.
What level of dedication are you willing to provide?
This may seem like a silly question, but it is, in fact, imperative to establishing expectations for both sides.
Prior to asking the question, you should consider what you expect from your mentor.
Do you want her to meet with you every few months for tea and converse about your future plans?
Or, do you expect her to be available to you whenever you need her, and be able to answer detailed questions that may take up a lot of time.
If you expect a lot, but your mentor does not have the time to devote to you, you will be disappointed.
Or, if you simply expect some direction, but your mentor comes on very strongly, urging you to make immediate moves, that may create an uncomfortable situation.
Therefore, discussing these expectations in the beginning is necessary.
What obstacles have you had to overcome professionally?
The answer to this question is crucial to giving you a preview of what kind of mentor this person will be.
If the individual started working in a family business, for example, and was promoted without much effort, they probably will not be able to contribute much to your desire to move up since they didn’t need to fight for their success.
You also want a mentor who is self aware enough to realise that obstacles were there, and how he overcame them, in order to help you overcome the same.
Who else should I be connecting with?
Your mentor should be your biggest ally in your professional career, but that shouldn’t be the only person in your corner.
Since your mentor has worked for many years, she likely established valuable connections that you may benefit from.
Asking this question can aid you in meeting people that can help you move along your career path.
Additionally, certain professional affiliations and clubs may not let everyone in, but a referral from your mentor can open up doors for you.
A mentor can be extremely beneficial as a role model and an advisor.
However, not all people get along well together, which is why it is imperative to ask questions before finalising the relationship.
Head of Training and Development
Originally published: 1 December, 2015
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