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Published on September 1, 2020

What Is a Mentor And Why You Should Find One For Yourself?

What Is a Mentor And Why You Should Find One For Yourself?

Especially during the pandemic, you might see friends reaching out to their mentors for career advice. That might lead you to wonder: What is a mentor and how do I get one?

Whatever your goals are, finding a mentor can accelerate your progress. Read on to understand what a mentor is, what one can do for you, and how to find the right one for your needs.

What Is a Mentor?

A mentor is a guide who uses their experience and position to help you accomplish your goals.[1] You can learn from their successes and failures without having to go through the same events they did. Their knowledge will better prepare you for the twists and turns that come with your chosen career.

A mentor can simply be someone you periodically talk to and ask questions from or someone who is there to show you the ropes themselves. Figure out what you hope to get from mentorship, and seek out someone who can help you achieve your goals.

Why Should I Get a Mentor?

Having a mentor is like drinking your morning coffee—sure, you’d wake up eventually, but you’d hit your stride faster with a little caffeine. With a mentor, you’re able to learn so much more and gain so many more opportunities than you would otherwise.

For example, a mentor can introduce you to a colleague who has an internship opportunity for you. In normal circumstances, this internship may be a long shot. A mentor can also answer your questions in real-time, helping you accelerate through your career path.

How Do I Find One?

So are you convinced that a mentor is right for you? Now it’s time to find one. There’s no Tinder-esque mentorship app where you swipe left and right on potential candidates. You’re going to have to take a more active and professional approach to find yourself a mentor.

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Here’s how:

1. Social Media Networking

Thanks to the internet, your network is larger than ever. In particular, social networking sites like LinkedIn provide an excellent platform to connect with business professionals.

You can request to connect with possible mentors on these sites and instant message them through their profile. Be courteous and open with your messaging—an overzealous or immature message can be off-putting right from the start.

Thank each person for connecting with you. Ask a simple question to create a conversation. This can be about the nature of their job or the company they work for. Over time, you can develop a relationship that grows into a full mentorship.

2. Networking Events

Local networking events can be even better than networking online in some cases. While the internet allows you to connect with people no matter their location, attending a networking event is more personal.

Although the COVID-19 crisis has forced sponsors to call off many of these events, opportunities still exist online. Relationship-building service 7:47 still hosts dinners online, creating connections by asking attendees to express gratitude.[2] Many industry-specific conferences are also being held on Zoom.

After the networking event, keep in touch with those who caught your attention. You need to develop a relationship before asking someone to be your mentor.

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3. Personal Branding

Before reaching out to potential mentors, you want to beef up your personal brand. You want to be able to sell yourself to mentors as someone worth their time to coach. Your personal brand will create the first impression you need to win them over.

You can build up your brand through social networking. Your online profiles depict who you are at a basic level. Developing a professional resume and working on your writing can also help portray the type of candidate you are at a glance.

Consistency is key when it comes to branding. Not only do you want your tone and message to line up, but you also want to keep everything up to date. This could include sharing weekly thoughts and questions on LinkedIn as a way to connect and learn from others.

4. Career Fairs

You may find a mentor through your work experiences. Finding a job or an internship can lead you to professionals who are willing to help guide you forward. The most concentrated place to look is at a career fair.

At these fairs, there will be dozens of booths of companies and organizations looking to gain exposure and fill positions. Not only can you send out a ton of resumes and applications here, but you also have a chance to speak one-on-one with recruiters from these businesses.

Before you attend a career fair, prepare some questions for potential employers. You can even ask about their experiences with mentorship within their organization. Let it be known that you’re itching to learn, and they might be able to help connect you with a good mentor.

5. Professional Workshops

Workshops provide a more hands-on experience than your regular career fair. The end goal isn’t necessarily to land a position but to learn a new skill or valuable piece of information. Workshops cover a range of industries, so you should be able to find one that’s right for you.

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At workshops, not only will you have a chance to meet with professionals in their respective fields, but you’ll also rub shoulders with some like-minded individuals who are also in attendance. Speaking with them could be equally beneficial.

Mentors need not be wise old men who traveled the world in 80 days. They could be fellow young professionals looking to get ahead and who happens to have different experiences than you. You can work together to achieve your goals, leaning on each other every step of the way.

6. Speaking Seminars

Many of the world’s highest-ranking business professionals attend speaking events and panels or host seminars for people to pick their brains. These events are sure to teach you something new. Look in your area to see if there are any events like this in the works.

Bring a notepad to soak in every piece of information you can. There will often be a Q&A segment, so be prepared with some questions to ask as well. You might be given the chance to ask one, giving you a five-minute mentorship window with one of the best.

There’s a slim chance you can personally meet the guest of honor for yourself. Regardless, you can always talk to other attendees in your quest for a mentor. Many local business leaders may be there, and it will be a wonderful chance to connect with them as well.

7. College Courses

Students have all the luck when it comes to mentors. People love to share their knowledge and experience with students. If you’re enrolled in school, now is your time to capitalize on the best college experience.[3] Play that “student card” and see where it takes you.

You can start in some of your classroom settings. When you’ve pinpointed the career path you want to follow, start connecting more with your professors. They can help guide you to where you want to go, having followed a similar path to yours. You can also connect with classmates who are on the same career path as you.

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College professors can also continue mentoring you once you’ve graduated. There is no expiration date to mentorship, but you don’t want to wait until after college to start looking for a career. Get started as soon as possible.

8. Clubs and Societies

Organized groups give like-minded people a chance to share interests and grow together. This is another opportunity for you to connect with possible mentors in a setting many don’t consider. Most schools and communities have groups that you might be interested in joining.

Each club and organization has a leader. This is the person you can begin to learn from. They are practically volunteering to be your mentor in exchange for your dedication and contribution to the group.

Don’t forget to learn from your peers along the way. Everyone can be a mentor in some way or another. Take advantage of every learning opportunity you can find. You may even find yourself in a position to mentor another someday.

Final Thoughts

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You might be surprised who ends up being the one that helps you the most. Line up your goals and start planning ways to find a mentor, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals.

More Tips on Finding the Right Mentor

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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