Are you unsure where your career is heading? Perhaps you feel stuck in a rut and ready for something new? In these situations, it can be hard to know what to do and where to turn for help – and that’s where a mentor comes in.
Whatever your aspirations, enlisting the help of a trusted, dedicated mentor can be of huge benefit to your career. That’s why, in this guide, we’re exploring what mentoring entails, how it can benefit you, and ways to find a mentor who aligns with your career goals and ambitions for the future.
Mentoring is a professional or personal relationship between two or more people, in which a mentor shares their knowledge, experience and expertise. It’s used in all sorts of different ways depending on the needs of the individual, from careers advice to health and wellbeing.
In a professional, careers-driven capacity, a mentor is someone who has the attributes and knowledge required to help a less experienced individual achieve their career aspirations. After determining their goals for the future, a mentor will provide ongoing guidance and support, using their experience to define different career paths and set their mentee on the right track.
It’s important to remember that careers mentoring can often come under different guises, including:
- Careers coach – a dedicated careers coach can be an invaluable partner for those hoping to climb the ladder within their industry. Given that they’re qualified to offer careers advice, coaches can provide actionable guidance and on-demand support – whatever stage you’re at with your career.
The main difference between a mentor and a careers coach is that the latter is usually paid for their services, while mentorship is undertaken on a voluntary basis. This isn’t hard and fast, however, and there are lots of instances where career coaches offer their services pro bono, or work with local charities to offer support to those looking for career guidance.
- Trainers – trainers are similar to careers coaches in that they offer expert knowledge and advice for a fee. Where they differ, however, is in the role-specific training they can offer to prospective candidates in particular industries.
Say, for example, you were hoping to land your dream job in accounting; a careers trainer could provide practical guidance to help you prepare for the role and ace the interview process.
- Voluntary mentors – unlike paid-for careers coaches and trainers, true mentors operate on a voluntary basis. Typically, they’re someone slightly senior with more years of experience in a particular industry – whether that’s a friend, family member, or a workplace supervisor.
This type of mentorship usually works on a two-way basis. Firstly, the mentee benefits from the knowledge and experience offered by their selected mentor. They, on the other hand, gain valuable experience in leadership, supervision and coaching, which could stand to help them reach the next rung of the ladder in their own career.
No matter what stage of your career, a mentor can be hugely beneficial, offering guidance and support to keep your ambitions on track. Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits you can expect by seeking the help and expertise of a trusted mentor.
- Expert, first-hand advice – above all else, the advice mentors can offer on a specific subject can mark a major turning point in your career. Whether that means clueing you up on a certain skillset or providing experience-led guidance on the interview process; the advice afforded by a dedicated mentor can be invaluable.
- Refine and develop your career goals – whether you have just finished school or are looking for a change in direction, a mentor can help you decide what the next step on your career path should be. Leaning on their experience and understanding of an industry, you can define your route to success and set clear milestones to help you get there.
- Improve your communication – liaising with a mentor to discuss your career and personal life can be of huge benefit to developing soft skills, like communication. Nurturing a mentor-mentee relationship requires time and commitment, and the practice of thinking about your own career and goals will help build analytical and questionary skills.
- Gain new perspectives – you may have a clear idea of what you want from your career, but have you considered the full picture? A mentor may be able to shine a light on new opportunities or potential pitfalls, ensuring you can make the most of all your career moves.
- Take your career further – if you feel you’ve reached the peak of your career in a particular role or company, a mentor can help steer you towards new pathways and options. From training courses to voluntary programmes, there are lots of ways to continually progress your career and experience, and a mentor can help keep you on track.
- Expand your professional network – whatever your ambitions for the future, growing your network now will stand you in good stead for a successful career. Working with a mentor means having the opportunity to meet new people who may be of influence down the road, so keep an open mind and an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.
So, we’ve discussed the merits of having a mentor, but how exactly do you find one? Here, we offer some practical tips and things to consider when it comes to assigning yourself a trusted, reliable mentor.
- Start by identifying your needs – what do you hope to gain from enlisting the help of a mentor? If it’s to develop skills in a particular niche, this narrows down your search sizeably. If it’s for general careers advice and guidance, you have more options when it comes to your pool of prospective mentors.
- Know where to go for mentorship help – there are lots of places you can seek out willing mentors, from family, friends and personal connections, to workplace associations, charities, and volunteer groups. Where you seek help will largely depend on what you hope to gain from a mentorship, which is why identifying your needs is such a crucial step.
- Request mentorship the right way – asking someone to be your mentor, in whatever capacity, is a big deal, and something both parties should take seriously. Prepare an elevator pitch and be prepared to speak them through exactly what you hope to gain from their expertise. Make sure that you’re both on the same page from the outset, and that they understand what they’re committing to.
- Seek out business mentorship online – not every mentorship relationship has to be partaken face-to-face. Platforms such as LinkedIn have made it easy for professionals to connect with business mentors, coaches and trainers, so you can benefit from their knowledge and experience right from your desk. A cursory search for ‘business mentors’ or ‘career coach’ will set you on the right path, and from there, you can reach out to individuals whose experience aligns with your aspirations and goals.
We hope this guide proves helpful in seeking the advice you need to move your career to the next level. If you’re keen to build skills, Oxbridge has a huge range of distance learning courses that can give your career a boost. For more information and our full course range, visit the homepage or call us on 0121 630 3000.