January is National Mentoring Month, a time to reflect on the benefits and importance of a mentor relationship at work. At That’s Good HR, we know a few things about mentors. Our role includes acting as mentors for candidates who need a little help navigating the hiring landscape. Our typical candidate relationship includes conversations about goals and guidance on tasks like writing an effective resume and nailing the interview.
But mentoring continues within the workplace, where these pivotal relationships can help new employees understand their industry, their company, and even their coworkers. Let’s look at what a mentor can do and how you can find an appropriate mentor to help you professionally succeed.
What is a mentor?
A mentorship is a two-way relationship between an experienced professional, or mentor, and a less experienced person, or mentee, in that same professional setting. Mentors are often informal relationships that grow organically as an established employee takes the newer one under his or her wing, so to speak. But it can also be a formal relationship that companies rely on to ensure that newcomers have a point person who knows the company’s standard operating procedures and can offer inside information on what to do when the coffeepot runs dry or a holiday is coming up.
Regardless, a good mentor has the mentee’s best interests in mind. A mentor can keep an eye on the mentee and offer valuable feedback on current projects. Mentors might rely on regular lunches or meetings to ensure that they’re on the same page regarding long-term and short-term professional goals. They may serve as a safe sounding board for new ideas or a person who can be relied on for the hard truth when necessary.
Ultimately, the mentor relationship benefits both parties. Mentees can expand their professional knowledge, while mentors have a chance to make a dramatic difference in workplace camaraderie and chemistry. There’s also a chance to learn from each other along the way.
How do you find a good business mentor?
Remember kindergarten, when you walked up to another child on the playground and said, “Let’s be friends?” The mentor relationship isn’t quite so easy, but it can fall together if you find the right person.
Keep an eye out for a potential mentor. A good mentor is someone who has the attributes you want to emulate in the workplace. That may be your direct supervisor, but it can also be someone else within the department who possesses those soft skills you admire, like staying organized or ahead of schedule.
Stay informal – at first. Look for ways to work with the other person professionally. Volunteer for that next project or offer to do some of the grunt work. See how the other person works under pressure, and how they handle professional success.
Set up a meeting. A mentor relationship works best when both parties are invested. Consider asking the other person for coffee or lunch so you have a chance to talk outside of the office. Be prepared to talk about why you would like a professional mentor and why you think this person could be the right match. Talk about professional goals and ask if the other person would commit to regular check-ins and other logistics. While this may be intimidating on the surface, remember you are giving the other person a huge compliment. And, if the potential mentor isn’t ready to commit, be gracious and make sure they know that you still consider them to be a great role model.
Establish expectations. Talk about how often you want to meet and what you would like to accomplish in a mentor relationship. Ask the other person for input and be open to something different from what you expect.
Remember to say thank you. Be proactive with your gratitude. Jot down little notes after each meeting reinforcing the important points and thanking the mentor for his or her time. Drop off a gift card for lunch occasionally and always offer to pick up the tab when you’re meeting for coffee.
Most successful businesspeople can name at least a few mentors who helped them along the way. Enhance your own professional journey when you open yourself to guidance, feedback, and even occasional criticism from a professional mentor.
Are you ready to find your next professional position? That’s Good HR can help match you with openings that fit your unique skillset. Our recruiting staff will support you in the job search and help you hear the words “You’re hired” in no time!