Whether you’re currently employed or currently seeking a job, you can be actively developing your skills, working toward your professional goals and establishing a path for career development. One way to work on your professional development is to seek out and maintain contact with a professional mentor. A professional mentor is someone who is available to pass down their business knowledge, help you network and coach you through unique, career-related situations as they arise. The idea of finding or requesting a mentor may be daunting, so here are a few things to think about as you consider a mentor.
First, take time to evaluate your skills and goals. What skills would you like to develop? Where do you see your career within the next five years? What in particular could you focus on with a mentor? Where do you struggle in the workplace or in your day-to-day tasks? Be honest with yourself about your strengths and shortcomings, and try to create a few concrete goals for the next few years. This will be a great starting point when you begin to meet with your mentor.
After you’ve adequately taken stock of yourself, make a list of possible mentors you’d like to work with. Write down half a dozen or so names of individuals who you believe may be able to help you move the needle on your skills or the other areas of improvement you’ve recognized in yourself. Also, consider your goals for the next few years and consider people who are either in positions similar to the ones you’d like to achieve or who have that experience already under their belts. If you’re unsure that one mentor will be able help with the areas you’re hoping to hone specifically, consider the idea of having more than one mentor. As this article from Forbes suggests, “if your ideal is Oprah, you may find her empathy in one mentor, her business savvy in another, and a slew of great professional networking connections in a third.”
Once you’ve identified a few professionals who you feel could be good mentors, reach out to them with a particular request. Instead of simply asking if they’ll be your professional mentor, mention the reasons you look up to them or feel that they could help you reach a certain goal. You may find that potential mentors are more responsive if they feel that you have a topic or idea in mind for a mentoring meeting. Otherwise, though the idea and intentions are great, the first meeting could be awkward and unproductive.
Once you’ve established a basic relationship, make sure that you maintain regular contact. Recognize that your professional development is yours to own and operate, and make time to call or email your mentor. Request meetings when you feel they’re beneficial and do your best to maintain an active relationship. Consider the fact that the favors can go both ways; congratulate them on upward movement in their own career or share interesting industry news or potential business contacts with them. Hopefully the connection you establish at the beginning of a professional mentoring relationship will benefit you in ways you never thought of throughout your sparkling career.
Do you have a slew of skills or career goals you think a mentor could help you with? Share with us in the comments section below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by ell brown