Talking to a mentor about your career can help you make better decisions about moving to a new job, taking a promotion or asking for a raise. Typically, you would work with someone with experience in your industry, as she would be best equipped to understand what it takes to succeed in your field. If you're starting out in the accounting field, you might find a mentor who runs an accounting practice. Finding someone who has had a career path similar to yours can help give you the direction and advice on how you can succeed.
Mentoring programs differ one to the next. Some are very formal and meet every week or so. Others are more organic. Maybe you exchange emails and have lunch once every few months. You get out of a mentoring program what you put in. Make it worth both your time and that of your mentor's.
How to Find a Mentor
Some companies have formal mentor programs, designed to help you achieve specific goals. If your company doesn't have such a program, create your own. At networking events, look for seasoned professionals who take an interest in you. Search LinkedIn for qualified professionals with similar interests, group affiliations, and career paths.
Once you pinpoint someone, begin by building a relationship with them. After all, if you're going to spend time with this person each week or month, you want to make sure it's a good fit for both of you. Ask her to lunch or coffee so you can get to know her. And when you feel like the relationship is growing, ask for advice—this can help take the relationship to that next level.
It's important that you give some thought beforehand to what you're looking for in a mentor. Just as you're looking for the right one, you need to sell yourself as a mentee. You're asking someone to take time out of their busy schedule to expend brain energy on you, so prove that you're worth it.
And remember that your mentor is doing you a favor. Always show appreciation for the time spent. If your mentor gives you job leads or makes a connection, make sure you follow up and let her know what came out of it.
Working with a mentor can help you develop professionally and forge new relationships that can move you on your way. Take your mentor's advice, even if you find it difficult to swallow. After all, that is why you sought a mentor in the first place.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.