Do You Really Need A Mentor At Work & How To Find One6 min read

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two colleagues discussing work over coffee break
Photo Credit: Kool Kanya

At my first writing job, I had difficulties figuring a few things out—like how does one strike up a conversation and slide through the interview? How should I approach a person if I want to interview them?

I had to figure most of it on my own because I never found someone who could actually teach me the tips and tricks. 

When I moved over to my next, I was surprised to find a mentor in my editor, who was more than willing to help me out. I learnt all the technicalities of my job that probably no journalism school ever would.

She put me in touch with all the right people, actually helped me discover my writing goals, and what I could do to achieve it. It’s been years since I left that job, but I still don’t shy away to get in touch with her whenever I need some writing advice. 

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Here’s how a mentor can help you.

Mentors Can Help Hone Your Skills 

Having a mentor helps you develop your professional skills while also giving you a better sense of how to navigate challenges and successes in the workplace.

If some timely advice from a more experienced member of staff can help you solve a tricky problem at work, a formal ongoing relationship with a senior colleague might move your career on in leaps and bounds.

A good mentor will take you out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to build upon your strengths, address any weaknesses, and stretch yourself in order to improve your skills and experience and get ahead in your career.

According to a study published by Elsevier in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, a mentoring relationship may promote career success. Mentors can impart specific knowledge and expertise which contributes to protégé learning and skill development.

Mentors Can Help You Make The Right Connections

They’re senior to you. So they’re bound to be more in touch with the important people in the industry. They know the right people in the business, so they can actually put you in touch with some of them that they feel right.

They can help you examine your career goals and decisions; advise you about any professional challenges you face; offer constructive criticism and feedback, and generally, help you to reach your potential at work.

They may also provide introductions to useful contacts and help you to open doors; empower you, engage and enable you to focus on your goals, help you to realise what you are capable of achieving regardless of the challenges you foresee.

Mentors can facilitate professional networking by introducing protégés to influential individuals within academic and organizational contexts. These important career contacts can, in turn, lead to career success in terms of salary, promotions, and job offers.

Mentors Double Up As Perfect Advisors

Whether your goal is career advancement, career change, entrepreneurship or you are job seeking, if you need to soar, deliver great results and reach the zenith of your potential at work, a mentor can help you.

They understand what it takes to get to the top and become a valuable resource by answering your career or work-related questions and providing good advice.

They let you shadow them at work or exchange career tips with you and alert you to new opportunities. You can count on them to recommend you for further opportunities and always say positive things about you.

How To Go About Finding A Mentor

It’s probably best to have a combination of somebody who knows your internal organisation well but not necessarily works there. They can provide that insight with having a grander view of your career’s growth.

Someone who has a general idea of your current role and industry will be able to give you advice on things like new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organisation.

Here’s How You Can Find A Good Mentor

Start With Outlining Your Professional Goals

Before you can establish a relationship with a mentor, you need to know what you want to get out of it.

  • Are you interested in developing your managerial skills or more focused on identifying a career path you can follow for the next three to five years?

For instance, when I told my editor that I was into creating comics and illustrations, she helped me see what future it could hold, and how I could combine my skills.

Kool Kanya Tip: If you’re not sure of your exact goals, make a list of the things that you’re most interested in achieving professionally. This can include:

  • Projects you want to work on 
  • Positions you want to hold
  • Type of environment you want to work in

Once you have your list, structure your goals according to priority and create an actionable plan based on your highest priority goals. 

Identify The People You Think Can Become Your Mentor

Now that you have a good grasp on your goals, identify one or two people at your company who can help you achieve them.

  • For example, if you’re working as an account executive on a sales team and your goal is to become a relationship manager, a current relationship manager or account director could be a great mentor.

Kool Kanya Tip: Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in a more senior role. Depending on your goals, you might decide to pick a peer instead.

This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to learn skills that will help you succeed in your current role and another team member has already successfully developed those skills.

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Establish A Connection 

If your company has a mentorship program, this is a great place to start since mentors in these programs are already willing and able to take on mentees. If not, the best way to develop a relationship with a potential mentor is:

  • By asking them to grab a coffee and chat about work
  • If you’re on the same team, you can use your current projects as a starting point
  • If you’re on different teams, you can explain why you think their expertise is valuable and what you’d like to learn from them

The idea is to keep things casual. Your approach to a potential mentor should be the same as an approach to a potential friend – your relationship will develop over time. Don’t force things; stay relaxed. Lessons and advice will come over time.

Kool Kanya Tip: Although asking someone to be your mentor might seem a little awkward, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, most people are flattered by the prospect of being asked to mentor others.

By establishing a good rapport beforehand, you’re more likely to get a positive answer and to start things off on the right foot.

Develop A Relationship

Once you’ve got a sense of whether or not the person is interested in helping you out, the next step is to outline your goals and explain how they can help you achieve them.

  • Since your mentor is likely to be a busy professional with a lot on their plate, coming to the mentorship with a clear sense of what you’re hoping to get out of it will ensure that you maximise the time you have with them while also being mindful of their busy schedule.

Kool Kanya Tip: A good mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways and it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re establishing a relationship with your mentor.

The best way to ensure that you’re adding value to the relationship is by asking your mentor if there is any way that you can help them in return. For example, if your mentor is working on a project that you’d like to learn more about, offer to pitch in and help even if it’s not part of your current responsibilities.

Use Social Media To Find A Mentor

Don’t be afraid to ask anyone of your choice to mentor you. The worst thing they can say is ‘no’. Then, move on to the next person. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

  • You can also crank up your social media presence on LinkedIn and locate a successful person in your field through there
  • On Twitter, you can search using hashtags for successful people in your field 
  • Also, look through your professional association or just contact the person you look up to directly in person

Kool Kanya Tip: You can find not only mentors but also a number of people that may have experience in your area of interest on social media. Follow them and connect with them for their expertise and advice.

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Other Mentorship Programmes

Here are some links to mentorship programmes outside your organisation:

  • Mentor Me India: A one-to-one community-based mentorship model that focuses exclusively on mentoring younger children through a one-to-one relationship within a community setting.
  • empoWer: Provides mentorship, industry connects, peer network, investor meets through a 6-week accelerator program followed by a 1-year support program.
  • Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Foundation (WEE): The WEE Mentorship Program at IIT Delhi is a program where a batch of 30 women are trained in entrepreneurship every six months. Step by step guidance is provided to strengthen and validate the business idea. Women entrepreneurs are connected to potential investors and buyers for their products so that they can take their business idea to a financially sustainable enterprise.
  • I Can Lead: Initiated by NGO Rising Flame is a leadership programme for self-development and professional growth. A group of six women with disabilities that are selected from across the country are given intensive individual training to address their specific ambitions.

What’s The Bottom Line?

No one is too good or too successful to have a mentor. You are never too old, clever or experienced to have one.

In fact, research has shown that mentoring relationships succeed and are satisfying for both parties when both the mentor and the person being mentored take an active role in developing the relationship. 

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