How Can a Mentor Benefit Your Career?

See Why You Need an Experienced Advisor

Young woman getting advice from mentor in office setting
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The word "mentor" has its roots in Greek mythology—Homer's Odyssey to be exact—but the importance of this concept to career success is no myth. An experienced colleague, known as a mentor, can provide invaluable help to you as you begin your career and advance in it.

When you are starting out you obviously know very little. Don't be offended. It's not you. It's just your lack of experience. You'll probably make a lot of mistakes and miss out on many opportunities, but you can limit how often this happens by finding a mentor.

You have a lot to gain by forming a relationship with a seasoned colleague who is willing to share his or her wisdom with a protégé (that would be you). A mentor can guide you through tricky situations and can provide helpful insight about growing your career. And don't worry about this relationship being too one-sided. Your mentor will hone his leadership skills by helping you.

What Can Your Mentor Do for You?

  • She can help you navigate tricky situations you may encounter at work and can give you advice on how to resolve them. Whatever you're going through, there's a good chance she has been through the same thing or knows someone who has.

  • He can help you score coveted invitations to industry events and introduce you to influential people in your field.

  • Your mentor can alert you to new job opportunities to which only those in her position may be privy.

  • He will know what skills will help you do your job better and can tell you how to acquire them.

  • If your employer offers you a promotion or you get a job offer from another company, your mentor can help you decide whether to accept it.

  • She can help you figure out when to ask for a raise and then give you advice on how to do it properly.

How to Find a Mentor

Now that you've learned what a mentor can do for you, you probably want to find one as soon as possible.

If you are lucky enough to work for a company that has a formal mentoring program, you might be matched with one when you start your job. Some employers that have such programs only make it available to those who ask. The human resources department should be able to direct you if you.

If the organization you work for doesn't have a formal program, then you will have to look for a mentor on your own. Remember this person does not have to work for the same company. Consult your network to see if anyone is willing to take on this role or knows someone who is. Check with any professional organizations you are a member of—if you don't belong to one, you should consider joining—to find out if it has a mentoring program. Many do.

Tips for Having a Successful Relationship

  • Choose a mentor whose goals are similar to your own.

  • Find someone who is in the same career field you are.

  • Make sure your mentor has an adequate amount of time to give to this relationship. Can he meet with you on a regular basis? Is she receptive to answering questions or helping with issues as they arise?

  • Don't wait for someone to make the first move. Since you are the one who will reap most of the benefits from the relationship, take the initial step in establishing contact with a person you think will be a good advisor.

  • You must make the time to participate. For example, if your mentor wants to meet with you before or after work, don't make excuses about being too busy or tired.

Eventually, you will be in a position to give advice to someone who is just starting out. Honor your mentor by paying it forward and doing for another person what he or she did for you.