How to Benefit from a Mentor Relationship

A mentor can help you navigate your industry and move forward in your career.

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Heather R. Huhman
Ever think about seeking out a mentor? It may sound like an outdated business strategy, but a mentor can be a great resource, especially if you find one who has navigated your industry before and has ample experience. This individual is a prime source of support, constructive criticism, and unbiased advice when it comes to your job opportunities, workplace conflicts, and much more.

Here are some ways to find the right mentor for you:

• Look for someone in your same (or a similar) field or industry. If you’re looking to break into another industry, find a mentor who already works in your desired field.

[See 10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Internship.]

• Look for someone with goals similar to your own.

• Take the initiative to contact the individual, as you’ll benefit the most from the relationship. (Although, don’t think that your potential mentor won’t benefit at all—they will.)

• Be prepared to dedicate time towards the relationship, as not much is gained from a relationship with little effort and time put into it.

Having a mentor is a great way to truly excel in your chosen career path. How? Here are several ways you can benefit from a mentor relationship:

• Learn from an experienced professional. A mentor has worked in your industry before and can show you the ropes. They can provide wisdom about workplaces issues and career challenges and help you look at things in a new light.

• Receive guidance, advice, and challenges. A mentor can help you navigate your career and job search by giving you advice and guidance based on their past experiences.

[See How to Successfully Change Careers.]

• Gain an unbiased opinion on issues and problems. Ever feel like you can’t solve a problem when you’re too close to the source? A mentor is a great third-party resource to turn to when you’re stuck on a project, having a conflict with a superior or co-worker, or facing a hurdle in your career.

• Clarify your ideas and goals. A mentor helps you solidify your ideas and goals by talking through them out loud. You’re also more prone to follow through with goals when you’ve shared them with someone who will hold you accountable.

• Develop your critical thinking skills. A mentor will help you look at projects and issues in a new way. They will challenge you to think about your current job, job search, and career.

Don’t know how you’ll find a mentor in your chosen field? Consider going virtual in your search. For example, StudentMentor.org is a non-profit organization matching college and graduate students seeking career or academic advice with professionals across the nation.

Do you have a mentor? What have you gained from a mentor relationship? If you don’t have one, do you hope to in the future?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010) and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.