mentoring

8 Ways Mentoring Can Help in Your Career Development

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ― Benjamin Franklin

M

entoring is a kind of professional relationship between two or more people in which the sharing of knowledge, experiences, and sound advice about a specific field are critical. It typically involves a mentor, who imparts his or her expertise to the mentee, who in turn strives for his or her own professional advancement. A report by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology revealed, “Mentoring has been associated with higher job satisfaction, higher promotion rates, higher future income, increased work success, and higher retention rates.”
 
From a career growth perspective, it’s easy to see how mentoring can help in career advancement. The right mentor can give you wise tips based on your skills, interests, and unique circumstances. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should always be dependent on your mentor when making career-related decisions. The mentoring relationship is still ultimately driven by your own passion and enthusiasm. You are responsible for steering that relationship and making it work. This is why it’s important to know your career goals from the start. Your mentor can only help you if you know what you want.
 
Dr. Lois Zachary, an author of many books about mentoring, said, “Mentoring shouldn’t just be the result of a formal program. Leaders should always be looking to grow. Learning is the purpose, process, and product of mentoring.” As a mentee, here are some of the things you can expect from your mentor.

Mentor as an industry adviser: Develop your technical skills

Mentoring as an industry adviser

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Career advancement and mentoring always go hand in hand, especially in academic career paths like the science and finance industries. To elevate your career, you should find a mentor who has a deep technical knowledge of your field. This is the most effective way to learn the advanced techniques and best practices in your line of profession. Aside from industry-specific skills, you should also ask to be taught general skills like communication, leadership, and interpersonal dexterity. You can also ask advice about how to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. These are all abilities that you will find useful. Once you learn all these skills, you will be equipped to succeed in your professional ventures.

Mentor as an informative source: Acquire new knowledge

Mentoring as an informative source

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Throughout your career, you will encounter difficult problems. You might struggle mastering a complicated concept or trip over a confounding situation. During these hard times, you will need the guidance and wisdom of a business sage who can help you understand how things work. For instance, imagine that you have your eyes on a call center hiring ad you saw before. However, you don’t really know all the nooks and crannies of the business process outsourcing industry so you’re not confident enough to answer interview questions. With the help of your mentor, you can get some call center interview tips that will help you secure the position. This also applies in other industries. The key is to make sure that your mentor is a reliable source of knowledge.

Mentor as a feedback generator: Check your reality

Mentoring as a feedback generator

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Career mentoring and advancement will only work if you know how to react to all kinds of feedback. Remember, one of the roles of your mentor is to make sure that you’re on the right track. That means you will hear your fair share of praises and sermons. Know how to handle these to help you improve your craft. Be receptive of both positive and negative feedback—it’s the only way you can acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. While positive feedback can inspire you, negative feedback can make you more resilient and mature. Trust your mentor when he or she is giving you feedback because he or she is most likely speaking based on experience.

Mentor as a credible influencer: Improve your reputation

Mentoring as a credible influencer

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If your mentor is someone who is respected in your industry, there’s a highly likely that his or her credibility rubbing off on you. Merely interacting with your mentor can help improve your public image. As Patricia Palleschi, Ph.D., one of the founders of The Executive Agency, said, “Your mentor must be a respected member of the community and the business world. You will be associated with the reputation of this person. Don’t pick purely on the basis of power.” You can gain the respect of other influential personages in your field simply by associating yourself with a mentor who can carry his or her name with pride.




Mentor as a career champion: Expand your network

Mentoring as a career champion

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Another role that a mentor can assume is that of a career advocate who can widen your career horizon by introducing you to new contacts. Your mentor can be a quality reference to future employers who can help in your career growth. Let’s take for instance the example given before. You want that call center interview badly, but somehow your application is buried under a pile of resumes. This is where your mentor can step in and attest to your strengths so that the employer notices you over other candidates. Referrals and introductions by credible people are important, especially when competition is tough. Don’t take for granted the career opportunities that your mentor can offer you.

Mentor as a role model: Drive your dreams

Mentoring as a role model

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Some of the best mentors don’t do anything explicit to help you grow professionally. Their mere existence can be enough to inspire you to move forward and pursue your professional goals. These mentors are your role models—the people you respect and admire. Their values and ideals help you develop a sharper focus and a clearer view of the future. You tend to adopt their vision and mimic their actions. You may or may not interact with them on a regular basis, but they remain a constant reminder of who you want to be and how you want to live.

Mentor as the devil’s advocate: See things differently

Mentoring as the devil advocate

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You can’t advance to the next phase of your career until you master your craft and learn the fundamentals. The best way a mentor can help you grow is to allow you to see how multifaceted every problem is. As Charlene Nora, a career transition coach, said, “Often, in looking at a situation in a different perspective, we challenge deeply embedded limiting beliefs. When the mentee struggles to believe in themselves, in their ability to overcome a challenge, the mentor is able to ask those tough questions that trigger a necessary change in thinking.” Sometimes, a mentor can suggest unconventional ideas that can get you out of a deep mess.

Mentor as a personal coach: Maintain a friendly relationship

Mentoring as a personal coach

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Find a mentor whom you can trust with your thoughts and plans—someone who can be your sounding board when you feel optimistic or helpless. It’s ideal to have a coach who knows you well enough that he or she can help you enhance your strengths and address your weaknesses. Mentoring usually starts as a professional relationship, but it can sometimes transform into a friendship that transcends business-related discussions and includes personal chats. Having a friend listen to your rants and raves can be gratifying in a corporate world where almost everyone is a rival.
 
Understanding mentoring and career advancement is not difficult at all. You just have to remember that mentoring, like any other kind of relationship, is not a one-way street. You may constantly find yourself in the receiving end, but that doesn’t mean you have no active role to play. In the end, everything is still about you. It’s about advancing your career and realizing your goals. Develop a mentoring relationship grounded on mutual trust and respect. This way, you can look forward to a future that presents endless possibilities.
 

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