Identifying a Professional Mentor

Mentors can provide valuable advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance.  They can be a valuable career resource.  Family and friends may want to help but they often lack experience in the field we are targeting and more importantly, they are not objective.  They can’t always provide the constructive and objective perspective that is needed.  Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career exploration opportunities.

Most business professionals seek a mentor with more experience so they can learn from their experience or a mentor in a field they aspire to work in.  Open, honest communication is critical to a successful networking partnership.  Being clear about goals of the relationship and agreeing up front on the frequency and mode of communication builds a strong foundation for the relationship.

It is not your mentor’s responsibility to find you a job.  You can explore career goals, seek networking contacts and request advice but do not ask your mentor for a job.  If they offer, it’s fine but the goal of the relationship is to gain advice and insight

Guidelines we share with students to maximize their mentor relationship include the following:

  • Be considerate of your mentor’s time.  Return phone calls promptly and arrive on time for meetings.
  • Seriously consider all advice you receive.
  • Show evidence that you have utilized the assistance they offer.
  • Show appreciation for any and all assistance provided.
  • Be open to constructive feedback and seek it whenever possible.  Do not be defensive.  Be open to all feedback and learn from it.  Seek feedback often.
  • Assume the relationship will be strictly professional.  Let the mentor take the lead in making it more personal if desired.
  • Say thank you often.  Let your mentor know how they are making a difference for you.
  • Look for opportunities to give back -share a relevant article, offer to assist with a new technology, refer a qualified candidate, etc.

Possible goals for a mentoring partnership may include:

  • Expanding my professional network
  • Clarifying my development focus
  • Enhancing knowledge of key functions and industries of interest
  • Understanding organizational politics
  • Receiving feedback on critical skills for development
  • Testing ideas in a safe environment

Just found some other thoughts that might be helpful on knowing when it is time to make a change.

How do you know it is time to change careers?

  • You don’t want to get out of bed
  • you dread going to work
  • you get depressed on Sunday night knowing you have to go back to work in the morning
  • you are constantly thinking that this isn’t what you want to do when you grow up
  • the thought of doing this for the rest of your working career depresses you
  • you are frustrated that you are not using certain talents and abilities or not pursuing key interests or passions
  • you have that nagging feeling in your gut that just won’t go away

Is it real or a passing phase?

  • Do some self-assessment exercises to clarify your interests and abilities
  • Get input from colleagues and friends about your strengths and your possible fit in your desired role
  • Critical to do informational interviews with people who are doing the job you think you want, find out what it is really like
  • Is there any opportunity to test what you think you want to do by doing it part time or in a volunteer situation while you keep your day job?
  • Identify what education or certification may be required and determine what you need to do to meet those criteria
  • If you aren’t qualified to take your dream job now, identify what you need to do to quality, what job now would lead to the job you desire?
  • What companies offer the type of job you desire?  Who do you know at those companies for networking?

Follow your heart.  We all spend too much time working to be miserable doing it.

 

 

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