Mentorship is something that many of our Career Over Coffee guests have attributed their success to, but is it necessary? Do we really need someone to give us that leg up to get to the next level in our careers? If so, how do we even go about getting a mentor? The answer is slightly more complicated than one may think. It's always nice to be able to collaborate and learn from someone who has been around the business block a few times. Mentors provide industry insight we never knew before and at the same time we offer mentors a fresh perspective as an outsider. Having a mentor is really a win-win. So where do we find this enlightened individual?
Finding a mentor
Your mentor does not have to be the CEO or MVP, because the odds of some super high ranking individual offering to hold your hand through every professional move you make are slim. Thankfully the idea of a mentor is so broad that virtually anyone can claim someone as their mentor even if they've never met the person face to face. A mentor is someone who inspires you to do your best inside and outside of the workplace. A mentor can be a respected coworker, a former boss, an iconic motivational speaker or business guru. Either way, you must first establish some sort of rapport with this person and usually, that comes without flat out asking, "Will you be my mentor?". Maybe you send a cold email to a CEO asking x, y, and z and the conversation just takes off and you find yourself in a wonderful virtual mentorship. Or you might work closely with a coworker or boss and suddenly you're bouncing ideas off one another and asking for advice and now you have yourself a mentor. On the other hand, if your strategic moves to get a mentor fail, you can always look to YouTube, inspirational books, and informative podcasts. You may not be mentored directly but by studying someone you deem to be successful, you can still get the benefits of having a mentor, without the constant back and forth, which may make you more resilient later down the line. Either way, there is much to be learned by having a traditional or unconventional mentor.
Mentors provide credibility
When you have someone in your corner, following your career journey, you're building a reference you can use when you're up for review at your company or if you decide to change jobs. Your mentor can vouch for you and speak to your achievements, work ethic etc.The more people on your side, recognizing you for your hard work, personality, and talent, the better! Mentors have a particular advantage over your superiors at work because if your mentor is someone who is highly respected and they're giving you credit - that goes a long way. When I was interviewing for 24 Seven I had a similar experience, though this person wasn't my mentor, I apparently left a lasting impression on her because she recommended me for the job I have now. Since this person's opinion was highly respected in the workplace so was my credibility.
Your coworkers can be mentors
As mentioned above, your mentor doesn't have to be some big shot in the office. Even if Sally from the HR department doesn't have a fancy title doesn't mean she's less knowledgeable than those who do. Sometimes our greatest teachers are the people right next to us. Your cubicle neighbor may be a retired Fortune 500 manager. Have you ever seen The Intern? If you haven't, Robert DiNiro is "the intern" and Anne Hathaway is the CEO of a huge fashion startup. Hathaway initially brushes off DiNiro thinking he's a senior intern with little to nothing to offer. Traditionally speaking, you would believe Hathaway mentors DiNiro; however The Intern inverts this convention, proving the greatest mistake you can make is writing someone off before giving them a chance. If you're feeling lost and uninspired, a mentor is a great motivator. And if you're feeling frustrated because you haven't found a mentor yet, just remember that the greatest gifts appear when we stop looking for them.