by Meica Hatters, The Labor Academy
We all have childhood heroes. Back when you were a kid it may have been a superhero.
I had a fascination with Wonder Woman. The qualities I admired in her were her stature, strength and virtue. When I look back now, although I didn’t realize then, she was my very first mentor.
Marvel Comics’ Wonder Woman
I wanted to possess the same qualities that she had – In effect, I wanted to be her. Now that I’m all grown up, I no longer desire to be Wonder Woman, but I still seek the guidance of an effective mentor. Although I never had a personal relationship with my comic book heroine – I still gleaned important lessons from her in those comics.
Today however, I realize that I need a more formal relationship with someone to take my career to the next level. And I’m not alone in that way of thinking.
The desire for effective mentoring is higher today than at any other point in our history. Individuals are looking for any edge they can use to succeed in their careers and their lives.
However, the operative word when it comes to mentoring is “effective”. The truth is that many mentor/protegé relationships don’t yield the desired results.
There are many reasons why these relationships fail to garner the expected outcomes. Some of the more common reasons include –
- Failure to set expectations
- Inconsistent communication
- Lack of interest
These (and other issues) can kill a mentoring relationship before it even gets started.
However, there are things you can do to develop a fruitful and long-lasting mentor/protegé relationship –
1. Determine what you need
Determine what your goals are for a mentoring relationship. Decide the top three things you need to get out of the relationship for it be worthwhile. Also decide the type of person you’d want to work with. Is it an expert who can help with a specific problem—such as requesting a raise, enhancing your image, or how to network more effectively? Or maybe you need someone to be a sounding board to discuss general issues with. Determining these things upfront will help you narrow your pool of potential mentors.
2. Look for potential mentors in unexpected places
Instead of just looking mentors in your place of employment, why not first try the professional organizations that you’re a member of. Professional organizations are rich in individuals that are experienced, committed and looking for ways to give back to their professional communities. Start by asking membership coordinator if your chapter offers formal mentorship programs where you can be paired up with a person interested in mentoring. If your chapter doesn’t have a group, it might be a good idea to introduce yourself to other members and find someone you click with and ask them if you could contact them if you had questions regarding their area of expertise.
You may also want to try LinkedIn. Using functions such as the Advanced People Search will enable you to find people from your alma mater, or industries or other area interest that you can form relationships with. You can tailor your search to a specific location so you can connect with someone nearby.
3. Know what to ask for
Don’t overstep the bounds with your mentor. Their job is to provide guidance while you do the actual work. They should only intercede for you in very specific and limited situations. All that being said – you have to show them how they can best help you. If you have an immediate need, there is nothing wrong with a making request. It’s probably safe to assume that you’re mentor doesn’t know where to start to help you. Start engaging them by simply asking for advice on one issue.
4. Express gratitude
Mentoring is big responsibility. It requires a commitment of significant time to be really effective. If you’ve done your homework – your mentor is really helping you to advance your career. Reciprocate their efforts by making yourself useful to them. Are there things that you can teach them or help someone close to them. Figure out ways give back to them and your relationship will become more meaningful and fruitful. Remember it’s a two-way street.
In the end, having a mentor to help guide your career is becoming more and more important. It’s a great way to grow as a professional – because you have someone who can help you develop perspective on challenging situations in and outside the workplace.
Do you have a mentor? What is your experience? Tell us in the comments.
About the author:
Meica Hatters is a contributor for The Labor Academy –a career development learning community that helps professionals become successful employees and entrepreneurs.