There are innumerable benefits to having a good mentor. Not only do you receive guidance, advice and support, you are also opening yourself up to that person’s network of contacts – invaluable if you are starting out, branching out, or progressing upwards.
But who to pick? As career coach Anna Healy points out, mentoring is a two way street – once you’ve found someone it’s up to you both to road test the relationship and evaluate if it’s worth the investment.
Dear Daily Slog,
“I am constantly reading about the importance of having a mentor if you want to progress in your career but I am unsure about where to start. How do you go about finding a mentor that’s right for you – and how do you know if they are right?”
These are very important questions and I will try to answer each of them for you.
To start, lets explain what a mentor is and does. According to Cambridge Dictionary – “A mentor is a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time”.
A mentor is an expert in their area of work or study, may have been working in their area for a long time and has travelled many paths to get to where they are. A mentor will know a lot of the pitfalls in their career path because they have experienced them or seen others trip up along the way. Anybody can become a mentor in their area of expertise; most people will do it inadvertently while discussing their career with others.
There can be formal and informal mentoring; there are formal mentoring schemes in some companies where new employees are paired up with someone more experienced, usually during the induction stage. This gives the “newbie” an opportunity to see what is available in the company in terms of career opportunities and progression.
Most people are happy to help others if they feel that it is reciprocated and not all one-sided.
You can also “buy” a mentors time – there are many Career Coaches around the country who have specialised in particular areas such as engineering, pharma, marketing etc and may have some really good contacts that can get you to the next level (if you are going to pay for coaching, make sure that the person is qualified and experienced and meets all of your criteria).
Networking is a great way to meet like-minded people who could share some of their ideas and experience. There are a number of networking groups available in Ireland that have amazing people who would be delighted to support people in their career progression.
People are generally delighted to impart their experience and advice. Most people are happy to help others if they feel that it is reciprocated and not all one-sided. If someone does something nice for you, you can do something nice for them, such as give positive feedback on social media, or refer a colleague or friend to their product or service.
Finding the right person is like finding a friend, it is about chemistry and mutual respect and appreciation.
Network Ireland is one example of a women’s network devoted to supporting women in developing themselves professionally and personally. There are hundreds of women in these groups that might be able to help you, why just pick one mentor?
In most networking organisations, for a small annual fee, you can attend monthly meetings and build relationships with interesting and experienced professionals who are happy to share whatever information you need to get clarity on your next step. And you will be able to help others on their journey too. Network Ireland also has a dedicated panel of mentors who offer some free hours to members who request them.
Finding the right person is like finding a friend, it is about chemistry and mutual respect and appreciation. This piece is up to you as you will gravitate towards some people more than others. Don’t discount anybody in your network as you never know who will inspire you to make the next move. I have friends from many different professional fields who help me at times with their guidance.
You may not have to travel far for support; there may be somebody in your company right now who might be happy to support you in your career progression.
You may not have to travel far for support; there may be somebody in your company right now who might be happy to support you in your career progression – if you have a relationship with them already it is just a matter of asking them how did they get to where they are now. Most people are happy to talk about their successes and pitfalls in their career. Plus it can look good on their CV to have mentoring experience and in turn build on their career.
Deciding whether the advice is good or relevant is up to you. Everybody has different experiences, and opinions so it is important that you take time to reflect on the information that you are given and decide on whether it is relevant for your path. Some advice might be enlightening and inspiring, other advice can help with lessons to be learned and sometimes the advice might not hit the right note for you.
Advice will be given but it is your choice whether or not you take it and use it to your advantage.
About Anna Healy
Anna Healy has worked as a Life, Business and Career Coach for over 10 years, helping people to identify the barriers they experience in finding work and how to manage and overcome them. As a parent and business owner, she understands the challenges that people experience when owning or managing a business and finding the work-life balance that suits.
Anna has professional training in Social Care, Human Resource Management, Life Coaching, Disability and Mental Health Awareness, Mindfulness and Advocacy.