There are many challenges employees face in today’s rapidly changing workplace environments. Discovering how to steer through various potential career paths and development opportunities can leave young professionals feeling alone in their search for success. Although mentoring relationships have been prevalent for many years, many organizations are beginning to understand the need to assist employee development in order to thrive in today’s shifting and competitive markets.
What is a mentorship?
Mentoring is a relationship where a more senior, experienced individual – a mentor – provides developmental guidance to a more junior, less experienced person – a mentee. A mentor can greatly benefit a mentee not only by providing career building opportunities, but also through cultivating a relationship and providing personal guidance.
Career opportunities that can benefit the mentee include sponsorship, coaching, exposure and providing challenging assignments. Mentors are also valuable for the interpersonal aspect which includes role modeling, counseling, friendship and acceptance. Mentoring can be part of a formally sanctioned organizational policy, or an informal private arrangement between two individuals inside or outside of the organization.
The support offered through a mentorship has proven to have significant impact on career success, resulting not only in good work, but also an overall more positive work experience. Professionals who receive mentor assistance with career planning and sponsorship tend to be more successful both through objective standards, such as more promotions or faster and higher salary increases, as well as subjective standards, such as greater career satisfaction or commitment to their career.
So, now that you know that mentoring can help you succeed in your career, how can you make this happen? Begin by outlining specific goals for your current work and future aspirations. Goal-setting will help guide you and ensure you are lining up the right team of mentors and seeking the right advice. The following three tips will help you get the most out of mentoring,
1. Build a mentor pool
The best thing you can do is select multiple mentors who align with your goals. Having just one mentor is not enough. Internal mentors can help with organizational issues and opportunities, while external mentors can offer guidance for larger career questions and help develop future career paths. To maximize these relationships, look for opportunities to gain first-hand experience. For example, ask your mentor to involve you in projects or coach you on certain skills that would be valuable in the long run.
2. Expand your professional network
In addition to looking for mentors with varying experiences, it’s important to find mentors that are willing and able to help you expand your professional network. When you first meet with a potential mentor, don’t be afraid to ask them to connect you with three more. Not only does this expand your network, it will also help you gauge if they are willing to play a connecting role throughout the mentorship. Remember, building your network can be just as valuable as developing your knowledge, experience and skills.
3. Pay it forward
While mentors can be a great resource for helping you develop the skills and networks you need to succeed, consider imparting your newly found wisdom on younger professionals though mentoring as well. Mentoring someone can give you the opportunity to practice your leadership skills and help develop business leaders of the future. Ask your organization if there is a program in place to help you find a mentee within your office or consider mentoring a current student or recent graduate near you. The more you can develop your leadership skills, the more you can apply them to your career path.
While navigating a career can often seem overwhelming, especially when encountering challenges, remember you are not alone. Developing relationships with people whom you admire and want to emulate can be beneficial in many ways, so take advantage of the opportunities around you and watch as the benefits unfold.
Jesus Bravo, assistant professor, received his Ph.D. in Business Administration from University of Illinois in Chicago. Bravo came to WSU Tri-Cities in 2011 from Arizona State University. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management.