How to find a career mentor and why it matters
Looking for someone to guide the way? Read this first!
Has your career hit a wall? Perhaps you're new to a sector or simply feel as though your professional life has begun to stagnate. We all need a little help now and then, when it comes to getting where we want to go professionally.
When you're looking to level up, finding a career mentor could be the answer. Gaining advice and help from someone who has been there and done it could prove invaluable. Whether this is a person you see regularly or merely someone you can turn to in a career-centric crisis, having them on hand could make all the difference.
Here's everything that you need to know.
Why do you need a career mentor?
Would you rather navigate the ocean alone or have an experienced captain by your side? The answer is pretty obvious. Having a career mentor could make navigating your professional future a whole lot easier. This professional already works in the sector you want to enter or the position you hope to gain in the years to come.
Picking the right mentor for you is extremely important (but we will get to how to do that shortly!). Put simply, they have all of the insider knowledge you've been looking for. From the experience you will need for certain roles to the industry standards, this person will be able to fill you in on everything that you need to know to progress. When you work alongside them, finding your way in the working world is more straightforward.
5 tips for finding a career mentor
Want to start searching for your career soulmate? It doesn't have to be as hard as you expect. While this process can be daunting, ensuring that you take a targeted approach is the answer. Let's take a look at five handy tips you can use.
Reach out to your existing network
First things first, it's time to delve into your existing network. Do you already know someone who fits the bill? Chances are, that you will find it easier to reach out to someone who you've already met than a complete stranger.
You might want to go through your email contacts or LinkedIn connections to see if there's anyone there that could be useful. For example, you might find that an old manager or even a lecturer has the experience and knowledge you've been looking for.
Should you stumble across someone in your (figurative) little black book, it's time to make the first move. That could be a simple email or, if you're feeling extremely brave, a phone call. You don't want to come on too strong from the offset.
Rather than popping the big question—'do you want to be my mentor'—keep things lighter. You should reach out and say that you're looking for someone with expert industry knowledge for some advice and guidance. Take things slow to start out.
Start with a list of candidates
If you've got no one specific in mind, you need a hit list. Start by writing out a list of potential candidates that tick all of your boxes. You can start by looking through LinkedIn and finding professionals who are already working in your chosen sector. The key here is to be specific in what you're looking for.
For instance, if you are entering the world of marketing, don't merely look for high-up professionals in this field. Marketing is a hugely diverse industry. Instead, pick a niche and try to identify professionals that have the expertise you're looking for. You may want to reach out to solely marketing executives working in the digital sector.
Alternatively, you may want to take a deep dive into the staff pages of your favourite companies. If there's a big name business that you admire, start snooping on its websites. Many leading companies list their staff (and their contact details!) on their sites, which means that reaching out to the professional of your choice could not be easier. Take the time to figure out who your 'must have' candidates are and add them to the list. The longer this list happens to be, the more choices you will have.
Learn about their background first
Planning to reach out to someone you've never met? Here's a quick word of advice. Make sure you do your homework. Learn as much as you can about this professional ahead of sending them an email or message. The more research you do, the better you can understand whether the mentor is right for you.
Of course, there are a couple of ways you can start looking into this professional's background. A quick Google search could give you a treasure trove of information on the person, their education, and what roles they have previously held. You can also take a look at their LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts.
Take an honest approach
Ready to get out there and start talking to people? When you're writing your emails or messages, there's one golden rule that you need to keep in mind. This communication should be open and honest, at all times. Don't beat around the bush or try to sandwich your request between irrelevant information. That won't cut it. You should be humble and authentic about why you are reaching out to this professional and what you are hoping to gain from doing so.
If you need some pointers, include the following:
An introduction about yourself
A direct and polite request for advice
Why you are interested in their career
What made them stand out to you
That you are thankful for their time
The above elements should help you cover all bases. Keep in mind that you don't need to 'trick' the expert into helping you. The truth of the matter is that people like helping others, especially if they have the means to do so. This person was once in your shoes. When someone is in a high position within their own career, the chance to help someone who is starting out is fulfilling.
Be patient and grateful
Chances are, you're eager to get the ball rolling with your mentor. That's entirely normal. When you've sent out your messages or emails, you may find that you're itching for a reply. However, you should understand that these professionals are likely very busy. If they are in high-powered jobs, they may not have a whole load of time to answer unsolicited emails. For that reason, you're going to need to practice a little patience here. Don't be surprised if it takes these people a few days (or even weeks) to get back to you. When you do hear back, be sure to be grateful for whatever support and assistance they can provide.
What are you waiting for? Finding your career mentor could have a huge impact on your confidence and career. You could get started today and begin compiling a list of people who you want to contact. The sooner you decide to make the first move and reach out to people, the sooner you will find the right person for the job. Get going now!