When grappling with a work-related problem, there’s only so much advice a spouse or friend can offer you. Since they likely don’t work in your industry or company, their insight may focus on the limited details they have of your work, which they probably know only from you.
But what if you could receive custom advice from an industry insider who knows you well and has your best interests at heart? What if their goal in the relationship is to see you succeed? Working with a mentor may be exactly what you need to grow in your career.
In a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, 29 percent of workers reported having had a mentor, and of those who are in a mentor-mentee relationship, 84 percent said the mentor helped advance their careers. Learn more about this prosperous relationship and if a mentor is just what you and your career need.
The benefits of having a mentor
If you’ve never had a mentor before, the relationship may seem strange in today’s age of social media-focused interactions and movement away from interpersonal relationships. However, a mentor is more than somebody to report to — they are there to share their experience and insight with you and see you succeed.
When asked if the mentor helped advance their career, 84 percent of workers said yes. Here are some of the ways workers said a mentor aided their career:
- By guiding me in daily responsibilities – 45 percent
- By guiding me in career path decisions – 37 percent
- By helping to make connections for me – 26 percent
- By recommending me for a promotion – 25 percent
Finding a mentor
How do you set out to find somebody to serve as your mentor? There are a number of different ways to begin this relationship. Based on answers from the survey, here are some of the most common:
- It’s someone I work with – 70 percent
- It was part of a structured mentor program offered by my company – 15 percent
- I was introduced to them by a friend/colleague – 8 percent
If your company doesn’t have a structured mentor program, speak to your manager or human resources department about setting one up. If the company doesn’t have the resources, you can independently find a mentor. Ask a co-worker you admire and respect to have go out for coffee or lunch with you, and discuss what you admire about their career and ask for advice. If the meeting goes well, have a follow-up lunch several weeks later, and see if they are receptive to a mentor-mentee relationship. If not, networking may be a good solution to meet industry experts outside of work who would enjoy the relationship.
Based on the survey results, a mentor-mentee relationship can be just as unique as the two people in it. Some of the variants of the relationship were the length of time, the age of the mentor and the number of mentors.
- When answering about their last mentor, 19 percent of workers said their relationship lasted less than a year, 44 percent said one to three years, 20 percent said four to six years, 6 percent said seven to nine years, 5 percent said 10-15 years, 2 percent said 16-20 years and 4 percent said more than 20 years.
- When responding to the age of their last mentor, 82 percent of workers said their mentor was older, 11 percent said younger and 7 percent said the same age.
- When replying to the number of mentors they’ve had in their career, 39 percent of workers said one, 35 percent said two and 26 percent said three or more.
Bottom line: The best fit for a mentor is somebody who you respect and can trust to share your problems and concerns with, and be open to learning from their experience.
What is the best piece of advice a mentor ever gave you?
If you’ve never had a mentor before, gain from the wisdom mentors have imparted on others. Here is some of the best advice workers have received from their mentors:
- Do your work now.
- Look after the nickels and dimes, and the dollars will look after themselves.
- Never stop learning.
- Always do the best job you can, no matter what others around you are doing.
- Focus on activities that make you excited to go to work and get work done. Don’t worry about job titles.
- Always network and never burn bridges.
- Ask for what you want.
- Fail fast and move on.
- Double check spelling and grammar.
- Ask questions — lots of questions.
- Be yourself and play to your strengths.
- Being lucky comes from hard work.