Why You — Yes You — Need a Career Mentor


Do you know the biggest problem most job seekers have?  This same problem keeps many employees from advancing in their careers.

The problem is too many of us try to manage our careers alone.  Every job seeker and every employee needs guidance and encouragement when making career and financial decisions.  From entry-level to CEO, all employees need mentors who can support them in their career goals.

Last year I said that everyone should have a cabinet of advisors, like the President’s, who help us with different parts of life.  Specifically, we all need people in our lives that we can go to for advice and support about work and education.  These people are your career mentors.

Asking career advice from your friends is OK, but they might give you bad information if they are not familiar with your career field.  You need career mentors to help you make informed decisions.

Mentors come in many forms. Some mentors-mentee relationships last several years.  Other mentor relationships last for a set amount of time, like a few months or one year.  Sometimes you can find a mentor to guide you briefly through a specific situation.

Identify at least three people who can help you with career information and emotional support.  You want more than one mentor because no one person is likely to have the knowledge needed to guide you through every situation or decision.

Mega corporation PricewaterhouseCoopers encourages young professionals to develop a “circle of mentors” working in various industries.  When you need job leads, for example, a broader network of mentors will be more helpful than deep ties with one advisor.

Your mentors will also help you to identify and develop your personal brand.  Ask these advisors what unique skills and experience you bring to the workplace, and how can you sharpen these skills, and promote them to employers or clients.

What should your mentor have?

  • More experience or knowledge than you in the areas where you want to grow.
  • Personality traits and values that you respect and want to develop.
  • Willingness to help you set professional goals and hold you accountable.
  • Commitment to give you the time and attention you need. This can be regularly scheduled meetings, phone calls every few months, or occasional e-mails.

Ways to find a mentor

  • Professional associations
  • Current or former instructors and professors
  • Your current or former work supervisors
  • Coworkers or colleagues with more experience than you
  • Mentor programs through your work or school

PricewaterhouseCoopers also suggests creating a “co-mentoring” relationship.  For example, you might pair up with a coworker or another job seeker who knows more about your career field and can help you with professional etiquette. In exchange, you could help that coworker to learn new technologies or develop a blog.

The form of your career mentor relationships doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you develop relationships with people who can help you to make informed decisions and guide your career in the right direction.

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