Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor

February 18th, 2014

As we move through our careers, we learn a great deal, from basic tasks to complicated strategies. Some skills come easily while others are earned through trial and error. Having a mentor can help us along the way by sharing their knowledge, and then, some day, the student becomes the master and is ready to become a mentor himself. It’s a time-honored tradition that benefits both sides.

The Benefits of Being a Mentor

Engaging with younger, less experienced professionals encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone, try new things, and explore the ideas of a new generation. By embracing that process, you are actively working to keep at the top of your game. You are more aware of emerging trends, and better prepared to adjust your strategies in the face of change. In short, you will become a more valuable employee.

If you can arrange to mentor someone in your own company, all the better. Everyone makes mistakes as they learn, and if you can help younger employees avoid common missteps, the company will benefit tremendously.

For retirees, mentoring is a way to stay engaged and social. The occasional lunch date not only allows you to pass on some of the wisdom you’ve accumulated over the course of your career, it also serves to keep you up to date on what is happening in your industry.

The Benefits of Being a Mentee

Finding a mentor can help young professionals identify what it is they don’t know. By checking in regularly with someone who has spent years working in your industry you will be better able to build a skill set precisely tailored to the career path you want to follow.

Mentors can help their protégés meet the right people to nurture their careers. As the relationship develops, mentors can become a trusted source for reference letters and behind-the-scenes support in a job hunt, putting in a good word to open doors.

How to Get Started

If you are interested in a formal internship, consider the options that are available to you. Many schools have official programs where alumni and current students can be matched up for a designated number of meetings or phone calls. Many companies also have programs for matching new hires with long-term employees.

Of course, mentorships need not be formal. Starting one can be as simple as offering to buy coffee for someone whose career you admire. One of the great things about temporary employment is that it gives you the opportunity to meet a variety of people in many different industries. When you find work you enjoy, look up the ladder to see who has done well, then make time to ask their advice. You will find that most professionals are happy to share what they’ve learned over the years.

The mentor/mentee relationship is a well-established tradition for good reason. If you haven’t yet given it a shot, consider reaching out. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always something new to learn.