Why Everyone Needs A Mentor

Posted May 10, 2013, by Jo Messer

Getting a mentor could be the best career decision you ever make. Research shows that people who have had a mentor are more likely to perform better at work, get promoted and be more satisfied overall in their job and career.

What is a mentor?

A mentor is anyone who acts as a personal advisor or guide, who shares their experience and knowledge with you. A good mentor offers you support and promotes your professional and personal development, and they can come from within or outside work.

The mentor relationship is a two-way process that relies on trust and open communication. Your mentor should have a genuine desire to impart knowledge and you, the ‘mentee’ should have a strong desire for learning and professional development.

What are the benefits of having a mentor?

A mentor can help you in many different facets of your career development and it really depends on what you are looking for. You may want to gain further knowledge about an industry or expand your professional contacts and networks. A mentor can provide you with encouragement and support to achieve your goals and help you to see things from a new or different perspective. A mentor can also provide you with constructive feedback and challenge you to think outside the square, and can be a sounding board for new ideas.

Know why you want a mentor

Before you seek out a mentor you need to clarify what you want to achieve. Do you want someone who can help bridge knowledge gaps? Are you trying to identify future opportunities for growth and development? Do you want to change career direction? Or do you just need support and reassurance? Once you are clear about your expectations, goals and objectives, the next step is to identify the qualities you should look for in a mentor.

What should you look for in a mentor?

A mentor does not have to be from your workplace and should definitely not be your boss. Good mentors are people who inspire you and who you respect and admire.

Here are some qualities you should look for in a mentor:

  • Makes time for you and has a genuine interest in helping you succeed
  • Supports and encourages you to achieve your goals
  • Is an active listener who provides constructive feedback
  • Shares their life experience, and passes on their knowledge and expertise
  • Provides advice without being directive
  • Shares your value system (they not only talk the talk, but walk it as well)
  • Is completely trustworthy and keeps shared information confidential
  • Has a broad range of industry contacts and is well regarded

You might be wondering why someone would want to mentor you. The reality is that being a mentor provides an individual with an opportunity to contribute to someone else’s learning and a chance to share their knowledge and experience. Most people are flattered to be valued and sought out in this way.

How to find the right person

Finding your perfect mentor isn’t always easy and you will need to have the confidence to ask. Mentors can be found in many different places and most likely you will need to go beyond your immediate workplace. If you're already working, you should find out if your company offers a formalised mentoring program.

Other ways to find a mentor include:

  • Industry and professional associations
  • University alumni and mentoring programs
  • Attending conferences and industry events
  • Connecting through LinkedIn
  • Seeking contacts through existing networks and/or family and friends
  • Local community groups
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Volunteering and work experience
  • Reading news and media to identify high performers/experts in the field

Kristina Karlsson, the founder of kikki.K, found her mentor Gillian Franklin (entrepreneur who founded The Heat Group, Australia’s largest cosmetics company) by approaching her after she gave a presentation. Kristina had done her research and knew that Gillian had a passion for helping women get started in business.

Formalising the relationship with your mentor

Once you find someone who agrees to be your mentor you need to be clear about what’s involved and ensure that you are both on the same page. It’s important that both parties have a shared understanding of the expectations of the relationship and agree on how formal or informal it will be. You need to agree on the time commitment, availability, contact boundaries, meeting times and goals. Ideally you should try and organise regular catch-ups, either face-to-face or by phone.

A good mentor can change your life and be the catalyst to help you achieve your goals!

Famous mentor pairings

  • Usher mentored Justin Bieber
  • Yves St Laurent mentored Christian Dior
  • Tina Turner mentored Mick Jagger
  • Oprah Winfrey mentored ‘Dr. Phil’ McGraw
  • Mariah Carey mentored Christina Aguilera
  • Peter Carter (Australian coach) mentored Roger Federer
  • Patrick Rafter mentored Lleyton Hewitt
  • Madonna mentored Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Sir Robert Gordon Menzies mentored Malcolm Fraser and Harold Holt
Jo Messer

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