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Get ahead in your career with a Mentor

January is National Mentoring Month, so this is your chance to learn how to seek out a mentor for yourself. The purpose of a mentorship is to increase your self-esteem and performance with clarity, communication, and commitment in your field of work. It can transform your career for the better. For example, a 5-year study by Sun Microsystems tracking the career progress of about 1,000 employees found that:

1. Employees with mentors were promoted 5 times more often.

2. Mentors were 6 times more likely to have been promoted as well.

Let's Get Started

First, be honest about your skills and believe in yourself. Everyone deserves a mentor. You just need to know what direction to go in. Do you want to stay in your current industry? Is there someone you already aspire to be? Are you open to moving? Do you prefer a remote job or an office? Seek a mentor in the type of job you dream about. Mark Zuckerberg spent a lot of time with Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates met with Warren Buffet regularly. Remember, no job is too little to seek out professional guidance. You may want to register at MyCareerAdvisor.com to get a better analysis of your current skills and possible growth. If you need assistance with the website, you are also welcome to visit Career Connections in Ocean Springs, MS. The Success Coaches at Goodwill Industries of South MS are happy to help.

Understand What a Mentor Is—and Isn’t. A mentor is someone who can act as your cheerleader and guide, encourage you to apply for new opportunities, and help you to navigate challenging situations such as transitioning to a new role or taking on a stretch assignment. Often your mentor will be someone working in the same industry as you and/or in a similar role—or someone working in an industry and/or type of role you want to transition to—who can help you figure out how to advance your career. While it’s possible to be mentored by a peer, most mentors will be at least a level or two ahead of you in their career track. Keep in mind that a mentor is different from a sponsor. A mentor answers questions and offers advice, while a sponsor uses his or her connections to advocate for younger or less experienced employees and actively participate in their career growth. Most people end up having a long-term, one-on-one relationship with their mentor, and that’s how we typically envision mentorship, but it’s not the only option. There are many different forms of mentoring, including peer mentoring (with someone at the same level as you) and group mentoring (where you don’t meet one-on-one). Mentoring can also be done in bite-sized chunks. For instance, you might find someone with a specific skill or an experience you want to learn more about and ask if you can talk with them about it in a one-time, one-hour mentoring session.

Schedule an initial conversation. Ask your potential mentor if he or she can make time for an hour meeting with you. You don’t want to be rushed, and you want plenty of time for the other person to ask you questions about your goals, etc. Here are a few places to find a mentor.

1. Industry Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn

2. Go through your connections on LinkedIn.

3. Look for experts based on their job titles or skillset on LinkedIn.

4. Twitter: People there tend to respond to @ replies and DM’s more than on other platforms. Many of our team members scheduled useful calls and had productive discussions thanks to Twitter.

5.Luke-warm emails to Bloggers: You’d be surprised by how many people actually respond to emails if you reference something of theirs you’ve read. If you think they are a fit for being your mentor, prepare some questions and start your relationship with them. If you don’t succeed because they’re too busy, you can always ask them to introduce you to another person who could help you grow.

Clearly describe the guidance you’re seeking. This is where that preliminary brainstorming on your part will help you articulate just what you have in mind. Describe what advice or guidance you are seeking and for what purpose. Is it to help you navigate your current department politics or are you seeking to apply to a different position? Are you thinking about going back to school and are not sure what area of study to focus on? Think about this, and articulate upfront what you are seeking.

Image vis Anete Lusina from pexels.com

Confirm your willingness to do the necessary work and follow-through. There’s nothing more frustrating than mentoring someone who doesn’t do the work necessary to take advantage of advice, so you want to make it clear to your potential mentor that you’re ready to commit the time, energy and effort to make the most of their counsel (and time).

Acknowledge and respect the individual’s time. Most people who are asked to become mentors are highly successful in their careers, which means they’re also very busy and much in demand. So it’s important for you to acknowledge that reality, and make it clear how much you appreciate their considering your request. This is also the way to provide a graceful “out,” letting the other person cite an overbooked schedule for declining your request.

Image via Mat Brown from pexels.com

If you’re reaching out to someone with whom you have no connection, go for an introduction along with any commonalities, specific interests, or discussion points. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Try to make a quick connection to hopefully pique his or her curiosity and spark interest in meeting with you. We advise you to ask to meet them for coffee or a brief meeting in their office first so you can both get to know each other. Aim for 30 minutes for your initial meeting.

Do not ask someone to be your mentor in your introductory email or in your first meeting. Like all relationships, building trust and rapport takes time. You may need to meet a few times and get to know them, and learn about their current career and goals before asking them to be your mentor.

View an example of how to reach out to someone you don’t know (a referral, someone you have not spoken with or written to in the past).

Note: If you don’t hear from them, follow-up, but don’t hound him or her. Check in two to three weeks after your initial contact, but after that, you need to assume he or she doesn’t have the time to meet you right now. It is time to focus on the other two or more on your list of potential mentors. Try to maintain a relationship (even if it’s one way) by sending notes or articles that may interest him or her once every six months just to check-in.

What to Expect in Return

In summary, your mentor should be available, analytical, and an active listener. Without these fundamentals, your mentor won't be able to understand your needs or help in solving your problems. Plus, if you keep track of what you learned from your mentor, you may be able to mentor other people in your field.

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