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Whether you’re a recent graduate or you have a few years’ experience under your belt, finding a trustworthy and experienced mentor in the workplace can play a big part in your professional development.
Mentoring at work can be of huge value to both the mentor and the mentee.
With that in mind, here's a look at what a mentor is, why having one is so beneficial, and how you can go about finding and fostering a successful relationship with a mentor at work.
A mentor at work will be someone who is more experienced, and often (though not always) more senior than you.
The mentor could be in the same team, or previously have been in a similar role to you. In this case, they are likely to have had very similar experiences - and so would be well-equipped to offer sage advice on problems they have faced in the past.
This won’t always be the case, though, and it’s possible that a mentor will work in a separate part of the business altogether. A mentor who works outside of your team would be able to offer completely different benefits – like taking you out of your comfort zone by presenting new ideas or challenges, or offering a valuable third-party opinion on problems you’re facing.
Whether mentors and mentees are in similar roles or on completely different sides of the business is likely to be something that depends on what management wants to gain from the venture – but both will offer a host of great benefits that can help to accelerate your career progression.
So, we hear you cry, what exactly are these benefits?
Depending on whether they are in a similar position or a completely different team to you, a mentor will either be able to help you to develop your existing skills or empower you to learn entirely new ones – like improving your public speaking, or showing you how to use a certain piece of software.
As well as role-specific skills, you might also pick up other skills from a mentor. Perhaps you’ll be impressed by how great a listener they are, or how readily they try to empathise with you and your issues.
Well, take them on board - because these are the kinds of skills that will ultimately shape you into an exceptionally well-rounded and well-respected employee.
To make the most out of the mentorship, a mentor should be someone who you feel comfortable around. They should be a companion in the workplace – and not just someone you can go to lunch with.
You should use your mentor to share your thoughts and express how you feel, no matter how big or small your issue (this might include things like salary, fitting in, or issues you’re having with another employee).
They should act as an unbiased third-party opinion and be ready to answer any questions that are thrown their way - so don’t be shy!
A good mentor will help you feel empowered, by helping you to conquer problems, alleviate tensions and feel altogether more assured about how you are progressing.
Even better, it’s likely that during their time at work they’ll have had dips in self-confidence, and they will be able to share their own experiences – reassuring you that you too can overcome challenges at work.
We hope that by now we’ll have convinced you of the benefits a mentor can offer, and you’ll be itching to know how you can find yourself a mentor at your graduate job.
Well, you might be lucky enough to work for a company that already has a programme in place. A lot of businesses are already well-versed in the value of mentoring, and choose to have a compulsory or recommended scheme for their employees.
You might be automatically paired with someone, but it could be that the programme is something you need to opt into. If in doubt, we’d recommend that you ask your Manager – they’ll be able to tell you whether this is the case, and show you how to sign up.
And if your company doesn’t have a fixed programme in place, don’t let this deter you. Mention to a Manager or a more senior colleague that you feel you’d benefit from having a mentor – and chances are they’ll agree.
The likelihood is that they’ll be able to find you a mentor, and who knows? - You and your mentor might persuade your company to launch its own programme.
Once you’ve found a mentor at your graduate job, you’ll need to ensure that you’re making the most out of the relationship. It’s important that you and your mentor have focused sessions, and we’d suggest that having specific questions or issues prepared will guarantee that the time is used efficiently.
These sessions will quickly make clear whether you and the mentor have a good connection or not - and if you do, work hard to keep the relationship going. If you continue to schedule regular meetings, and arrive armed with a range of questions and issues to discuss, the relationship between you and your mentor will continue to provide tangible benefits for both parties.
And finally; encourage honesty. As tough as it might be, it’s important not to be put out by advice or tips that your mentor offers you. Your mentor is likely to be able to see things that you can’t - whether this be to do with issues you are having, or regarding your performance in the role.
Remember that their feedback is coming from experience and a desire to see you succeed in your role – and taking it on board will be hugely beneficial in the long run.
Finding an experienced and trusted mentor at your graduate job is a sure-fire way to accelerate your professional (and personal) development. Now that you’re up-to-scratch on the merit of mentoring, make sure to take our advice - and find and foster a successful relationship with a mentor at work.