Mentors can be career-boosting, life-changing resources.
I recently read an article about a young woman who completely changed her career to do something more fulfilling and challenging. Rather than enrolling in graduate school or job-hopping, she set out on a two-month quest to pick the brains of business people and entrepreneurs she admired.
While schooling—especially graduate school—can be enlightening and can be transformative for many, there are few for whom it is necessary. Most new skills in the corporate world can be learned for free through a mentor. You just need to find the right one.
Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up Women’s Network, says that many people have the wrong idea about mentorships; they don’t have to be a major time commitment and a mentor doesn’t have to hold your dream job. “A valuable mentor may have honed a particular skill you admire or have experience overcoming specific challenges you are facing,” says Luke.
Theoretically, a mentor is someone who is there for guidance and – depending on how much the mentee wants to invest – can provide a taste of their career or lifestyle. If chosen with thought, a mentor-mentee relationship should be a two-way street, says Luke. “Organizations can also help with this by seeking to pair mentors and mentees with those who might make a good fit.”
Here are her basic tips to ensure a fruitful mentorship:
Take initiative. Set discussion agendas, ask questions and thank the mentor for sharing her time and expertise.
Outline your expectations. Let your mentor know how frequently you hope to meet or speak and what you hope to gain from the relationship.
Stay in touch. One of the basic rules of mentorship is that the mentor should only offer advice when asked. Update your mentor on your progress in desired areas of growth and identify new challenges.