A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. — Oprah Winfrey
While Oprah isn’t generally one of the Marketing thought leaders we turn to for industry insights, she offers an astute perspective on the power of mentorship.
Mentors are a tremendous resource for every professional – no matter what stage of your career or the industry you work in. Mentors can help you shorten your learning curve as well as introduce you to new ideas and perspectives. If that’s not sufficient, having a mentor in your workplace can help you develop unique relationships you otherwise wouldn’t have. If you are hoping to make a transition or progression in your career but are afraid of failure, wouldn’t it be smart to have someone to help you with the process to achieve the best result?
Why have a mentor?
First of all, I advocate for a mentor at every stage of your career. Having a Yoda (or more than one) allows you to expand your horizons, handle stress effectively, and benefit from the expertise of somebody who has been there and done that. They can help glean insights as you pave your career path and make important decisions in your professional career.
Who to choose?
It’s ideal if you can find a mentor who has previously been in your position. Someone who uniquely understands your obstacles and has successfully navigated them. I also advocate for finding another mentor who has been in the next role you want (or the next, next role). They can validate whether it actually is the role you want, identify areas you need to further develop to get there, and if you’re lucky, even open some doors to help you get there.
A third mentor (hey, organizations have a lot of advisors, why can’t you have more than one?) is someone who isn’t in your role or the subsequent one but possesses an adjacent skillset or experiences that would really be beneficial (e.g. if you are a Marketing Executive in a FinTech company, find a mentor who has years of experience in the Financial Services space who can fill in your comprehension of how the industry operates).
Like most things in life, preparation is the key for a successful mentorship. Identify and document what you want to achieve with each mentor. Continue to identify the knowledge and insights you want to obtain from them in accordance with your own professional development and career planning.
Approaching a mentor
Don’t be afraid to ask. Do you know somebody who might be a great mentor for you but you are a little weary to ask because of their level or notoriety? Ask them. Mentors who are in the second half of their careers place a high level importance on helping others and fostering the next generation of business leaders. People have a desire to share their story, and are flattered when somebody demonstrates admiration for them – it’s human nature. Let them know what you admire about them, what you’d like to learn from them and what your career goals are.
Ask others like your manager, colleagues, even people in your LinkedIn network if they know of someone who might be a great fit as a mentor to you. Someone who not only meets the criteria I indicated above but is also the appropriate personality fit for you. They should be straightforward and honest (you don’t want them wasting your time with fluff) but also supportive and genuinely interested in your development.
Being a good mentee
Like any relationship, the mentor/mentee relationship goes both ways. Finding someone who is willing to help you in your professional career is the first step, but carrying out the relationship falls on both the mentor and the mentee. It is the role of the mentee to help manage the relationship, set objectives and coordinate meetings to help move the relationship forward. You should be conscious of your mentor’s time — always come prepared with objectives and a meeting plan. Ask your mentor if they need anything from you, and if you can do anything to be of service to them. Be open and honest about what you’re seeking from the relationship.
Share your success
Like great teachers, mentors love to see you succeed. Celebrate your achievements (new roles, promotions, awards) with them and don’t forget to say thanks. A little can go a long way. Finding the right mentor can be a great personal investment. Make the most of the relationship by being prepared, being open, and being honest.