When you’re stuck in a rut in your career and you can’t seem to dig yourself out, sometimes it’s best to look for some extra help and advice. Every professional should try to establish their own career mentor for just such a purpose.
You may think that you’re too old or too far along in your career for a mentor but that’s simply not the case. Anyone can benefit from having a mentor and not just for those who are struggling in their career. It’s a bit of motivation and inspiration to look at someone’s position and strive to achieve what they have achieved.
There’s so much you can gain by having the right career mentor, but as with anything that is beneficial it does not come without some effort. So while you search for that perfect career mentor for yourself, keep these tip in your mind.
Go outside your comfort zone.
It can be intimidating to seek out your own mentor and your nerves might cause you to want to seek out the easiest possible solution. Maybe you can just find a close friend who you already talk shop with—why can’t they be your mentor? The purpose of a mentor is to provide you with something you’re not currently getting. If you have a dozen friends who offer great career advice and are always available to talk to then that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still get yourself a mentor. Find someone that you’ll go out of your way to sit down with when you need a little guidance. The hard path is hard for a reason.
Look outside your career, too.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that they should only seek out a mentor in their own field, but that is a very limiting approach to take. You could hardly be faulted for thinking that way as it seems only logical that your career aspiration would match with the career achievements of someone in your company. However, the key to a good mentor is less about the position and more about the person. How did they get where they are? What about their journey inspires you? And you can find someone inspiring in just about any field.
While the mentor-mentee relationship is one that is (ideally) mutually beneficial, the reality of it is that you will likely be initiating many of the meetings. With that in mind, be aware that your mentor cannot always be at your beckon call. You need to be able to accommodate them and their schedules. Don’t always expect to be able to sit down for hours at a time when maybe they only have time for a sup of coffee. Allow flexibility on your part and the relationship will have room to grow.
Colleagues can be mentors.
Similar to how some people think of mentors as those who are within their industry, people tend to seek mentors who are upper management. Once again, this limits your search and blinds you to some potentially rewarding relationships. For instance, a colleague can offer you so much as a mentor and likely in more specific ways than most higher level mentors could. If you have trouble with a particular aspect of your job (writing, public speaking, teamwork) seek out a colleague who excels at your trouble area and learn from them.
Don’t be greedy.
In the end of it all, the biggest thing to keep in mind when seeking a new career mentor is that you can’t expect the world from this relationship. Hopefully this person will be able to provide you with helpful advice, valuable insight and good conversation, but you cannot go into it thinking that they will be your problem solver. Be conscious of what you are asking of your mentor and keep those expectations in check. Don’t demand too much and don’t put them in an uncomfortable positon. You can learn a lot from them if you’re able to just take the time to sit and listen.