How to make the most of your mentorshipFeb 16, 2023
If you are struggling to transition into a new career, a mentor may be the missing piece to your plan. If you’re not convinced, 3Skills has shared the value of having a mentor.
Once you learn how a mentor can enhance your life and career, it’s time to plan how to get one. There are a few things you have to consider when you do.
Types of mentors
There are a few different types of mentors and they can play different, yet supportive roles in your career plans. Knowing the type of mentor you need will help you identify who you choose. It will also make it easier to tell your potential mentor what you need from them as they decide to embark on this career relationship with you.
A mentor who spends most of the time helping you sculpted yourself into a more employable and competitive industry professional is a great challenger. When you want to switch careers, the challenger learns about everything you want, everything you can offer, and helps you figure out what you need to get there.
Challengers will push you to overcome the barriers between you and the job in your new career. In fact, challengers will push you to make optimistic career goals in the first place. Knowing your work history and the life you want to create for yourself, mentors who challenge you will give you the encouragement to want and demand more for yourself. This could mean helping you ask for more responsibilities at your current job or helping you market your skills for contract or freelance work if you are currently job-hunting.
This mentor comes to mind first when you’re considering a career change because they build bridges to get you where you want to be. The connector is someone in the industry or company you’re seeking whose greatest strength is that they know people. They don’t have to know everyone, but they do have to know the right people who will help you grow and develop into the professional you want to be.
If you have a connector mentor, their job isn’t just to send you a manager’s social media profile. Sometimes they can connect you to people who are at the same level in your career as you. Sometimes they can connect you to someone who has left the industry. The connection can even be an expert or an instructor who can help you get into a bootcamp to build up your professional skills to get you ready for a new job.
Connector mentors must know about your skills, your experiences, and your goals so they can think of the people they know who can support those skills, match those experiences, and help you reach those goals.
But the first connection starts with the two of you. It is an ongoing relationship that thrives on learning your weaknesses, improving your strengths, and refining who you are. When you become an asset, your mentor will have no trouble connecting people with you because you will be as valuable to them as they are to you.
Career coaches are a jack-of-all trades when it comes to mentors. In fact, they can be the one to set you on the path to a career transition. A career coach will know your personal and professional goals so they can help you create a career that will support a well-rounded, work-life balance.
Career coaches start where you’re at, whether you are freshly unemployed, unsatisfied at your current job or position, or you have been searching for a new job for months. Career coaches have the insight to look at your resume, ask you about where you want to go, and take you to the drawing board to figure out how you’ll get there.
Lastly, a career coach mentor will help you build the hard skills, soft skills, and interview skills you need to change the trajectory of your job-hunt. They will help you find the title of the job you want based on the responsibilities you want to have. They will help you find the company that will pay you to get that job. They will help you apply and land the job.
Coach mentors must be invested in your development as a person. They will encourage you, challenge you, and connect you as much as they can to help you reach your goals – but that’s only if you are just as invested in the process.
Source: Christina at Unsplash
Finding the right mentor
But finding these mentors can be hard. Where do you look?
First, start with your own network. Who do you admire from your current job or past companies? Think of supervisors and managers that had your best interest at heart; who encouraged and challenged you to produce great work – and praised you when you did. These are the colleagues you want guiding you.
Next, consider your circle’s circle. Are there friends of friends or acquaintances you see doing well on social media? If your friends are mentioning a successful person they know who has a role you are seeking, don’t hesitate to ask more about that person. They will likely be flattered by your observation and receptive to being asked for advice.
Finally, think of approachable micro-influencers on Twitter or LinkedIn. They love engagement with people they do not know, so this is a great way to introduce yourself. Their commitment is to helping other people achieve a life they have, so they may be willing to do some one-on-one work with you to get you there – if you market yourself well.
There are people online who can fill this gap for you. Check out a few websites that connect mentees with mentors worldwide:
How to ask someone to be a mentor
You may be wondering how to ask someone to be your mentor. For one thing, It’s more than asking, “Will you be my mentor?” over social media. There must be some sort of pre-existing relationship there.
If you’re introducing yourself for the first time, start with who you are and what you do. You should also open the door for them to talk about themselves and their knowledge. Ask them a question about a new project they are working on. Compliment them on a career achievement they shared about on social media. You want to begin by letting them know you know who they are and how they are positioned in their company and industry.
Then you want to find out more about their career trajectory and values. Ask them why they chose the company they did and their long-term goals. Ask them what they love about their job.
Don’t get too personal right away, but you can connect over things outside of work, like their favourite TV show or artist or sports team. Use this information to connect over memorable moments or talk about the latest news.
When you have developed a good rapport and they have asked you enough questions about your career and what you seek to achieve, you can ask them if they would like to be your mentor. Keep in mind this conversation can come days, weeks, or even a couple of months after connecting. When you ask, emphasize why you want them to mentor you: what you admire about them, what you can learn from them, and how their investment in you will not be a waste of their time.
Finally, outline what this mentorship would ideally look like for you so they have an idea of what this time commitment will be:
- What kind of guidance you are seeking
- How often you want to have meetings and communicate with each other
- Confirm how much work you will put into following their advice and improving your personal and professional development
What to ask your mentor
Since you’re trying to break into your mentor’s industry (or at least learn from your mentor transitioning somewhere else), you should have questions to ask them about their journey. Here are a few to choose from:
- Is there a job you were hired for even though you were not fully qualified? How did you get it?
- What criteria do you use to make sure you’re setting the right priorities for your career?
- How do you combine your passions with your work?
Besides career transition questions, you should know other ways they have gained the career they have by asking about their skill-building and professional development. Here are some examples:
- What personal and professional skills should I develop to meet my career goals?
- What weaknesses do I have? How do I turn them into strengths?
- What personal and work habits help you with productivity?
Life happens. Learn from someone who has been put through the wringer or just has plenty of stories to share. Here are some questions to learn from their mistakes and their wins:
- What do you wish you knew when you first began working in this industry?
- What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career and how have you addressed it?
- How do you reconnect with someone you have had conflicts with in the past?
Put in the work
A mentor may not be around forever, but when they are, their time is valuable. Their insight and support can take you from one company and industry to another, but it’s your capabilities that will be the deciding factor. You have to be willing to put in the work to find someone to guide you, then actually trust the things they give you advice for. You must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, work on yourself and refine your professional persona so your mentor’s time and energy isn’t put to waste.