5 Reasons You Need a Mentor – and How to Find One
After years of training and education, you’ve finally landed a great position in your field. But no matter how much preparation you’ve done, a mentor could help your career, and assist you personally, in profound ways.
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Here are a few ways you could benefit from having a mentor.
1. You need to harness and channel your enthusiasm.
When you’re new, what you lack in experience, you make up for with enthusiasm. The energy and excitement you display at work will help you succeed. A mentor who understands your profession can help you direct your energies toward certain focus areas that can fuel your success, and show you how, where, and when, to use this energy for the greatest benefit.
2. It’s the little things.
Education may prepare you to do your job on a big picture level, but when it comes to the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, you are sure to need some support. School doesn’t help you answer the mundane (though practical and important) questions like how to keep your records, or how to use the prevailing technology systems of your office. Little things can turn into big things if you don’t know where to turn for support. That’s where your mentor comes in.
3. Your mentor knows how to help you advance.
Karen Taylor Bass of Madame Noire recently wrote a piece about the importance of mentorship for women, particularly minority women, and how a mentor can support career success. Guidance regarding how to navigate corporate politics, or assistance finding connections can help you get where you’d like to be more quickly. For women, it sometimes helps to have a mentor who is also female. And, keep in mind that as a mentee, you need to be open to the feedback, suggestions, and critiques that are offered to you. Otherwise, the support won’t take root as firmly as it should.
4. You have a lot of questions, and you feel badly bothering people with them.
Another nice thing about having a mentor is that you know where to go for help, and sometimes you feel like you need a lot of it. Once you have a supportive person that you can count on to be there for you when you need assistance, you’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed about your learning process. It’s never fun to poke around the office trying to find someone who seems open to taking time away from their own work to help you. It’s better when you know you’ll be received with patience and positivity when you have to ask yet another question.
5. You’ll make more money.
Sarah Wexler of Glamour recently explored this topic and noted that research indicates that women who have mentors generally earn more money than those who do not. Having connections with higher-ups is even more important these days as the traditional office structure becomes more fluid and flexible.
So, now that you’re convinced that you need a mentor, here are some suggestions for how to find one.
1. Use your resources.
Along the way, people have probably told you that if you ever need anything, you can come to them. Individuals have given you their contact information, reminded you, sometimes repeatedly, that they’d be happy to help you, and shown themselves to have the wisdom and experience you’re working toward. You may have met someone in school, or through a friend or family member, that is successful in your field. So, why not give them a call? It can feel funny to ask for help, but if you utilize your resources, and make connections with folks who have offered their support to you, you’re sure to gain a great deal of insight and many valuable tips about your work.
2. Look for certain personality traits in a perspective mentor, not just skills and knowledge.
A good mentor brings more than just experience to the table, they bring themselves. Karen Taylor Bass lists some of the qualities to look for in her article. You’re looking for someone who has strong interpersonal and leadership skills. You want someone who is patient and willing to spend time working with you. Without these things, the most experienced professional isn’t a great mentor.
3. Recognize the mentor you already have.
Often, mentorships aren’t official, but you don’t have to have the formal title in order to do the job. Your mentor will most likely be someone you work with, who has been at it for a while, and readily offers you their support. Just remember to appreciate their time and words of advice and encouragement, and be sure to express your gratitude regularly.
Tell Us What You Think
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Gina Belli works as a teacher, freelance writer, and educational consultant, and lives in her beloved home state, Connecticut. She likes to write about education, work-life balance, and the economy. Given her arresting capacity to over-analyze anything interpersonal, her writing often tends to focus on some of the more emotional aspects of workplace connections and disconnections, as they relate to partnerships and teams, personality and communication styles, and leadership. In her free time, she likes to putter around her renovated one-room schoolhouse home, take walks in the woods, and eat as much guacamole as she can get her hands on.