Posted August 28, 2013 by

Mentors Give Valuable Career Guidance and Help You Meet Your Goals

Smiling businessman with his mentor in the background

Smiling businessman with his mentor in the background. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The beginning of your career can be exciting — and terrifying. While you’re getting used to a new job and learning valuable skills, you may still have tons of questions about what you should do in the future and the best way of achieving those goals. Although you most likely won’t find a road map or fortune teller to help you answer these questions, you can find the next best thing: a mentor. Mentors can help guide you as you make important career decisions because they’ve been in your shoes, and have gained knowledge and experience by walking the path you’re on now.

Software Company Uses Mentors to Train New Hires and Boost Morale

Chicago-based software provider kCura found that as the business rapidly expanded, the need to provide new hires, including interns, with additional training opportunities became increasingly important. As a result, the company created a buddy program, which pairs new hires with experienced employees who can help them get acclimated to the company culture, and answer any questions they have about their job and their career in general.

But the new hires at kCura aren’t the only ones who benefit from the company’s mentorship program. The organization itself also benefits because the program is building relationships that boost employee morale, while giving mentees endless opportunities to learn more about the company.

In addition, the buddy program is also a rewarding experience for the mentors themselves, says kCura’s Director of Marketing Communications Shawn Gaines.

“For mentors, there’s this opportunity of taking ownership of bringing new folks into the company,” he said. “You’re kind of the first main contact for this person coming into KCura, and it’s kind of fun and exciting to experience somebody coming in for the first time.”

Finding a Mentor

A workplace mentoring program like kCura’s can be an excellent opportunity for those beginning their careers to benefit from the knowledge of someone with more experience. But even if your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, you can still be mentored by someone — inside or outside of your organization. The key is to find the right person.

Before you ask someone to mentor you, you should be clear about what you want to do in your career and how a mentor can help.

“You have to first figure out the direction you want to be heading. Clearly the mentor is the person who is going to help guide you in making the general decisions, but if you’re just open to anything, it’s tough to identify a mentor who is going to give you the best possible advice,” Gaines said. “The more you know about the path you want to take, the more you can find somebody who has actually walked that exact same path, or a similar one.”

After you’ve identified your goals, you can then go on to identify a possible mentor to help you achieve them. If you can’t find anyone inside of your organization, you can always look to your LinkedIn contacts, or someone you connected with while face-to-face networking.

Once you’ve identified someone you think may be a good mentor, ask that person to go out to lunch or for a drink so you can really get to know them. If you find you’re compatible, ask that person if they would be willing to periodically get together with you to share their career advice and knowledge.

I Have a Mentor…Now What?

Whether you have been paired with a mentor through a formal workplace program, or you found one on your own, these tips can help you get the most out of the relationship.

Take advantage of everything your mentor has to offer. A mentor can give you advice about your current position and the projects you’re working on now, but you can also benefit from their insight on a wide range of career issues.

“The reason you have a mentor is to build a relationship because you know this is somebody who understands what you’re going through. At the very least, you should take their advice under consideration,” said Gaines. “Don’t just have a mentor for the sake of having a mentor — really utilize that person in any way possible.”

Help your mentor help you. When you’re working with a mentor, especially when you’re in the same organization, it’s tempting to bombard that person with questions as they pop up. But sometimes it’s best to give your mentor time to think about the best answer to your questions. Instead of putting your mentor on the spot, try to schedule a time to talk so that you can both get the most out of the conversation.

“Mentors are human,” said Gaines. “They have a lot of experience, but they might need a little time to think something through to make sure they give you the best advice. Whatever you can do to set them up to give you the right advice is helpful.”

Stay in touch. Even if one of you moves on to a new company, that doesn’t mean the mentoring relationship has to end. If your mentor is open to working with you after a job change, you can still benefit from that person’s knowledge.

By Kenya McCullum

About the Author:

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California and a contributor to OnlineColleges.com.

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