Having a mentor is one of the most valuable opportunities for professional development, allowing you to improve your individual work performance and boost your career.
Mentoring presents many benefits for employees, both professionally and personally, including increased knowledge sharing, improved skill sets and the opportunity for constructive feedback and support.
In mentoring relationships, you’ll meet or talk regularly with your mentor to exchange ideas, discuss work progress and set goals for professional development. Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you report to – they may be your manager, but they could also be a co-worker or someone from an entirely different industry. Regardless of who your mentor is, they’ll be someone who knows how to succeed and is passionate about sharing this knowledge with others.
Let’s look at why 86% of executives say having a mentor is important for career development.
The role of a mentor is “to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentee through the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience.”
Knowledge sharing is an incredibly important part of the mentoring relationship, as a mentor can provide you with real world knowledge on how to advance your career, based on their own professional experiences.
He or she can also help to identify gaps in your skill set and push you to learn new skills. For example, you may have always been terrified of public speaking and shied away from challenging yourself in that area. Having a mentor’s encouragement can make you feel more motivated to develop your public speaking skills and achieve new personal goals in the process.
Online learning provides a convenient and effective way to bridge those gaps in your skill set – ask your mentor what online courses or training they’ve completed to build up their knowledge. You’ll find thousands of eLearning courses for professional development available and free of charge.
One of the best things a mentor can do is empower you with a newfound sense of confidence in your work.
As successful leaders, mentors offer regular support and encouragement, helping you to maximize your potential so you can get where you want to go in your career.
Having a mentor can also help you to stay motivated and focused on your goals. When there’s someone else you’re accountable to, who has placed a lot of time and energy into your career, you’ll want to deliver your best work possible.
Your mentor can act as a good sounding board for your work experiences, allowing you to consider certain interactions or situations in a different light.
Things that go wrong in the workplace, whether it’s interpersonal relationships or problems with a project, may not seem so dire to someone with more experience. Your mentor can offer you a more objective perspective on the situation, helping you to keep your focus on things that are more important.
Mentors can help you to navigate career challenges, through sharing insights from their own past successes and failures. They can also provide you with exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking that can help you to further grow.
Through the lens of experience, your mentor can help you to view your mistakes in a more positive way.
Successful leaders often see mistakes as an opportunity for professional development and positive change. Everyone makes mistakes at work from time to time – the important thing is to learn from these mistakes and become more resilient in the process.
As Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s School of Management, stated in an article about the benefits of mentorship, “we may gain confidence from our successes, but it’s our failures that develop our leadership muscle and offer the most powerful insights.”
Another benefit offered through mentorship is the opportunity for both parties to grow their professional network.
Mentoring isn’t just a one-way street. Your working relationship with your mentor can also bring benefits to their career, offering them professional development in their leadership skills and recognition as a mentor and subject matter expert.
Through your mentor’s introductions, and vice versa, you can both develop positive working relationships with new contacts that you may not have had the chance to meet otherwise. This also provides you with an opportunity to build your personal brand, through a wider audience of social media contacts and greater levels of exposure.
When choosing a mentor, you’ll want to look for someone whose experience and success is greater than your own, although they don’t necessarily need to be from the same industry. Someone from a different organization or sector can still provide valuable insight into areas of leadership and professional development.
People who have used strategy to get where they are make great mentors, as they can share their experience and help you to build your own roadmap to success. You’ll be able to learn firsthand how they got to the role and position they’re in today.
As well as experience and strategy, mentors should inspire you by their values and character traits. If empathy and honesty are important to you in your career, align yourself with a mentor who understands the importance of these values. Look for people who are passionate about their work and love what they do. You should admire the life and work of your mentor, as they exemplify the skills and success you want to achieve yourself.