With the new year well and truly here, we’re all taking stock of the year that was. From looking back through photos of our adventures abroad to reviewing our goals for year past, ‘tis the season for reflection. And no matter how your past 12 months turned out, we’re all planning for what we want our new year to look like.
Whether you’re an emerging entrepreneur hoping to turn your side hustle into your full-time gig or striving to climb the corporate ladder, we’re all looking for ways to step up in our career. As we turn our attention to setting New Year’s resolutions, many of us will be putting career goals at the top of our list. From scoring a promotion (and negotiating a pay rise) in your current company or pursuing an entirely new career path, creating changes at work can be a daunting prospect.
One of the most popular ways to source career advice and inspiration is to find a mentor. By reaching out to someone who has done it all before, you’ll be able to gain insightful wisdom that can support you on your own career journey.
But how do you find the perfect mentor to suit your career goals? To give you a helping hand, we’ve curated your ultimate guide to uncovering the ideal mentor to help you thrive at work this year.
Identify your mentoring objectives
Before you start firing off emails to every possible mentor you know, it’s important to start by identifying your objectives. As with any big project, it’s essential to do your planning beforehand to ensure you know exactly which areas of your career you’d like to develop and improve.
The first step to identifying your mentoring objectives is to understand the specifics of what you hope to learn. Start off by considering the following questions:
- What skills or areas of your job do you consider your strengths, and why?
- In contrast, what skills or areas of your job do you consider your weakness, and why?
- Are there any skills, roles or responsibilities you’d like to improve or learn?
- Where do you hope to see yourself in your career in 12 months’ time?
- What does your ideal job look like?
- Are there any changes you’d like to make in your career this coming year?
Once you’ve mapped out your career aspirations and goals, you’ll have a clearer picture of which key areas you’d like to develop. This process of self-reflection clarifies exactly which type of mentor will be most valuable to you, helping to narrow your mentor search to those with experience and expertise in skills you’re wanting to improve.
But it’s also important to consider whether mentoring is the right approach for you. In some situations, other avenues of professional development such as online training courses, workshops, and career resources such as books and podcasts, can be more beneficial to help you develop niche skills. Make sure to carefully reflect on your unique career goals and consider which approach will be most effective in helping you meet your professional objectives.
Understand the time and energy you’ll need to commit to mentoring
Once you’ve clarified that mentoring is the right approach for you, it’s important to understand how much time you’ll need to commit to the process.
Unfortunately, mentoring is more than just putting your hand up and asking for help. As a mentee, the energy and time you put in is just as important as finding the right person to mentor you in the first place!
To get the greatest benefits from mentoring, you’ll need to find time in your schedule to commit to regular meetings as well as extra time to action any advice or practical steps recommended by your chosen mentor. Before reaching out to potential mentors, make sure to consult your calendar and identify which times would work best for you on a weekly or monthly basis.
The key here is to be realistic about your time and to avoid overcommitting yourself from the beginning. In most cases, one hour every couple of months is a good rule of thumb for setting regular mentoring sessions (whether that’s a phone call, Skype video chat, or face-to-face meeting over coffee).
We’d also recommend setting aside a couple of hours each week to check in and work on any key areas your mentor is helping you to develop. By blocking out your calendar in advance you’ll be more likely to stick to your mentoring plan and gain the most benefit from the sessions.
Look for mentors with key skills you want to develop
One of the best ways to find your perfect mentor is to identify the core skills you’re hoping to learn, develop or improve.
Armed with your list of career goals, take the time to pin-point exactly which skills you believe will be most valuable to helping you excel in your career, now and into the future. With these skills in mind, you’ll be best placed to get specific with the kind of individuals that will be best suited to your mentoring goals.
Do your research and look for potential mentors that have strong experience in your industry and the core skills you’re hoping to learn. For example, if you’re passionate about mastering public speaking and facilitating presentations, try searching for professional speakers, MCs and event hosts in your area that might be willing to share their wisdom. By focusing on matching with individuals based on their skill set, you’ll be more likely to gain valuable wisdom from these mentors to ensure you make the most of your time.
Another great strategy when searching for specific mentors is to use professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. This digital portal is a goldmine when it comes to connecting with like-minded professionals, giving you the opportunity to reach out and start conversations with potential mentors. Try filtering your searches based on key skills relevant to your career goals and shortlist a range of potential candidates to ensure you find the best fit for you.
Leverage your existing social network
One of the most intimidating parts of finding your perfect mentor can be reaching out to potential candidates. Let’s face it, asking complete strangers for help isn’t exactly the most comfortable conversation to have! So, why not look closer to home and consider if someone in your existing social network might be able to help?
Depending on the size of your company, a great place to start can be at your office. Consider the fellow employees you work alongside each day and reflect on their skills and experience. In some cases, co-workers can be a great resource when it comes to mentoring and can help you avoid spending hours cold emailing high-flying executives and industry leaders in the hopes of a response. But, be conscious of whether it’s appropriate to seek assistance from those in your workplace. If you’re looking for advice on a radical career change, perhaps look outside your immediate surrounds to find an impartial source of support and advice.
Another great resource for finding potential mentors is your digital network on social media. From old university friends on Facebook to past co-workers on LinkedIn, these connections can be golden when it comes to finding a mentor. By rekindling past connections, you’ll bypass the need for introductions and can get straight to the point when it comes to your career and mentoring goals.
This article was written by Lucinda Starr and originally published on A Girl In Progress.