This post was published on the Dreamrow website on Ocotber 24, 2012. It was written as a freelancer.
by Nicole LaChance
What do Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters have in common? They all became successful with the help of mentors. Colleges often discuss the value of internships, rightly so, but do not push students to have mentors. So, if you have a few minutes take this crash course on mentors.
Mentor: noun, a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
A mentor can be different things to different people, but their main purpose is to provide career and life guidance to their mentee. Many entry-level employees take on a mentor a few rungs up the career ladder to help guide them in their new position. These relationships can form intentionally when a person asks for guidance or unintentionally.
Mentors can provide invaluable career advice. As someone who has been in your career field for awhile they can speak from personal experience and provide an inside look at how to be successful in your career and what it takes to move up in the field. There’s no better guide than someone with first-hand knowledge.
A good mentor will share their mistakes as well as their successes. It’s easy to see a mentor as a perfect example but even the most successful CEO has had a few missteps. While there is no doubt you will make a mistake or two in your career, learning where your mentor went wrong can help you prevent a few more. And learning what they have done right will give you a roadmap for navigating your career.
Mentors will also help build your network. Not only will you establish a contact with them, but they will most likely introduce you to other people they know. These can include people at their level or higher up, maybe even someone who mentored them. Connections are invaluable for those looking to advance in their career and mentors are a great link to them.
You are convinced of the benefits of mentors, but how do you go about finding one? As a student you do not have the same access to people in your career field as those already working in the field. However, there are still plenty of options. Professors are a great resource as they have usually had a successful career before switching to teaching. You can also meet mentors at your internship or job training placement. If there is someone whose career you admire, reach out to them. You never know what advice they can provide.
When approaching a mentor it may be a little intimidating to ask them for a long term commitment to you and your career. Start by asking for advice about an immediate issue or for some general tips. If the person is receptive, continue contact with them and let a relationship form naturally. Your need for mentors will change depending on where you are in your career but try to always keep in contact with everyone who has mentored you. Maybe one day you will be in a position to help them.