Benefits of working with a careers mentor (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether you're just starting your career or you're looking to develop professionally, a mentor can provide you with valuable insight and guidance. Finding someone suitable who knows how to support your professional development is a long-term investment in your career. By learning how to find a mentor in your field, you can make sure that you find someone that you connect with and who can help you grow. In this article, we explain what a career mentor is, list important benefits of working with one and share additional tips that may make the process easier for you and your mentor.

What's a careers mentor?

A careers mentor is someone who can help you achieve your professional goals by giving you advice and supporting you. Most commonly, mentors are more experienced professionals working in the same field or a field that's closely related to what you want to accomplish. For example, if you have a degree in marketing and want to change your career by starting an online business, it may make sense for you to find a mentor who already has experience running a business, setting realistic financial goals and promoting services or products online.

While working with a mentor, they'd likely share valuable information about their career with you. This can help you assess common career risks and overcome obstacles that you may face on your professional journey. Most mentors also offer emotional support and provide guidance and motivation.

Benefits of having a careers mentor

With the advice and support of your professional mentor, you can explore different paths and make better career decisions. Here are some of the biggest benefits of having a mentor:

Helps you expand your network

Because mentors are usually experienced professionals who often still work in the same field as you, they may have the opportunity to introduce you to some of the most influential figures in the industry. When a mentor creates networking opportunities for you, it's important to remain professional at all times. If networking takes place at an event, consider researching speakers or important guests and practice introducing yourself. This is one of the best ways to prepare for making a lasting impression on them.

Related: Benefits of mentoring for mentors, mentees and organisations

Offers you insight into your career path

Mentors can help you view your career choices and path from a different perspective. This fresh insight allows you to understand your options and make wiser decisions for your personal and professional goals. Remember that it's unlikely that your mentor is going to make those decisions for you. Their main task is to show you what's possible by helping you believe in yourself.

Teaches you how to overcome obstacles

When working with a mentor, it's important that they teach you some of their strategies for overcoming obstacles in life and at work. They typically take advantage of their experience and expertise to offer you valuable advice that you can use to assess and prevent risks. An effective mentor is someone who helps you focus on your strengths to ensure difficulties have less of an impact on your career.

Provides you with constructive feedback

Most people work with mentors over a longer period of time. This means that your mentor is likely to witness some of the mistakes that you'd make while accomplishing your goals. It's important that you share all the important details behind your unsuccessful decisions with them. This way, they can objectively assess your situation to provide you with constructive feedback that you'd use to fix those mistakes and further advance your career.

Inspires and motivates you

Having a mentor can be a source of motivation because it gives you a chance to interact with someone who's successful in your field. A mentor can be a great role model who inspires you to overcome your fears and weaknesses. To make the best out of this situation, consider asking your mentor what motivational advice they'd give to their younger self.

Related: How to be a good mentor (with definition and steps)

How to find a mentor for your career

While looking for a mentor, make sure to remain patient, as finding the right person may take some time. Here are some things you can do to prepare and start looking for a mentor:

1. Focus on your needs

Consider starting to look for a mentor by identifying your needs and visions for your career. Think about some of the most important milestones you want to achieve in two, five or ten years. In some cases, you may find that you only have a clear vision for the upcoming months or up to a year and are unsure about your long-term goals. Although ideally, you may want to create a longer plan before finding a mentor, in some situations you may ask them to help you create that lifelong plan.

While identifying your needs, you can focus on the details first. Usually, you'd want to make a list of skills you want to improve and develop, assess your strengths and decide which weaknesses to work on. Use this information to think of the bigger picture, including the things that have been holding you back from succeeding professionally.

2. Identify successful industry leaders

While looking for a mentor, it's important to focus on people who possess skills you want to develop and hold values similar to yours. There are various methods of identifying potential mentors, including:

  • Attending industry events: It's likely that you'd find a mentor by researching influential guests and speakers who attend some of the biggest industry events. Events of this type can come in the form of trade shows, speaking events, networking events or conferences.

  • Searching on social media: Consider using keyword searches on social media to look for pages, groups and chats that attract people with similar interests, skills and values. Finding prospective mentors on social media allows you to quickly evaluate their personality, reputation and professional level.

  • Volunteering: If you're just starting your career, a great option to explore may be to volunteer for a company that operates in the field you're interested in. Volunteering can put you in front of many influential and experienced people who could offer you some tips and guidance.

  • Joining an online mentorship network: If you're struggling with finding a mentor organically, you may decide to join some online mentorship networks that focus on connecting mentors and mentees. This option may be ideal for you if you travel a lot or want to find a mentor who lives in a different country.

3. Reach out

After shortlisting your potential mentors and researching them online, consider reaching out to a few of them to see if your values, personalities and career visions align well. You may even schedule an informal meeting that you'd limit to an hour or less, so you can acquaint yourselves with one another. Remember to start the conversation by introducing yourself and sharing some of your struggles and goals. It's also critical to ask them some questions, after which the conversation may start to flow naturally.

4. Evaluate your connections

After meeting with a few prospective mentors, evaluate your connections and ask yourself if their individual experience and expertise can be valuable to your career. Regardless of your decision, follow up with everyone to thank them for meeting with you. While choosing one person to reach out to again, consider paying attention to the things you have in common.

If a potential mentor maintained eye contact throughout your meeting and had a positive attitude towards your career goals, it may be a sign that they have similar values. Based on your observations and analysis, choose one person that you'd feel most comfortable working with as their mentee. Ideally, you'd like to find someone who's easily approachable, reliable and has extensive knowledge about the things that interest you the most.

Related: How to write a follow-up email (with examples)

5. Ask if they're interested in mentoring you

Once you successfully develop a connection with a potential mentor, ask them if mentorship is something that would interest them. Establishing clear expectations is a great way to make sure they can offer you exactly what you're looking for. For example, you may ask if your mentor would be available to meet with you weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

Related: How to find a mentor: a useful step-by-step guide

Additional tips for working with a professional mentor

Finding a suitable mentor is one of the most important steps that can help you grow your career. Here are some additional tips you can implement while working with your mentor:

  • Focus on developing the relationship naturally: Let your relationship with your mentor develop organically based on mutual interests and values. Give this connection some time, as your mentor may need a while to adapt to the situation.

  • Prepare for challenges: Your mentor may want to provoke positive change in your career by challenging you. Remember that they're doing it to test your strengths and help you make better career decisions.

  • Ask for feedback: Whenever you feel stuck or when you're struggling with some obstacles, reach out to your mentor and ask for their feedback. They may not be able to fix your problems instantly, but they may share some valuable advice with you to make the process easier.

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