How to Find a Mentor Who Will Help You Advance

Three exercises to help you evaluate what you really want out of your career at any stage

Mentorship at Every Stage Utilize mentorships throughout your career to continue advancing. With Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In topping the best-seller lists these days, it’s no surprise that mentorship is a hot topic among the professional community – and with good reason. The right mentor can be a powerful tool in your career arsenal, whether you’re new to the working world or already well-established in your industry. In fact, Sheila Wellington, former president of Catalyst Foundation and author of Be Your Own Mentor, believes it’s one of the main reasons why men tend to rise higher than women in the workplace – men are more likely than women to have mentors throughout their careers. Not only can mentors help shape your professional skills, they can teach you the ins and outs of your industry, help you navigate corporate politics, overcome adversity, and introduce you to the right people and resources to advance your career. Check out five different types of mentorship below to find out how you can reap the benefits of professional guidance throughout your entire career. Seek aThe Sensei Some of you may think you’ve outgrown the need for a mentor, but that simply isn’t true. As your career evolves, so will your requirements for a mentor. Consider what type of guidance you’re looking for, given what stage you are in your career. Do you want a veteran of your industry to help you clarify your career path, or are you looking for a leader to help you tackle the challenges you face in upper management? Look to senior executives in your company whom you admire or well-known industry leaders who inspire you. You’ll uncover a number of potential role models by getting involved in relevant professional associations, such as Step Up Women’s Network (SUWN) or the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW). These groups provide countless professional development and networking opportunities for women of all ages and stages of their careers. Enlist anThe Entrepreneur Expert Mentors aren’t reserved for your typical corporate professional. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, there are many organizations designed with your needs in mind. From building business plans to raising capital, these groups provide mentorship opportunities to help you become a successful business owner. If you want to start your own business, get a mentor who understands your specific challenges. Check out MicroMentor, a group which specializes in pairing entrepreneurs with business mentors for free. Additionally, the organization WomenUp aims to increase female entrepreneurship and opportunity worldwide by facilitating woman-to-woman connections and mentorships. Partner with a The Peer Mentor Before you reach out to a senior colleague, consider the benefits of utilizing a peer mentor. These relationships work especially well when you’re joining a new company or if you’re considering a career transition. In both cases, identify someone at the same career stage as you who knows the lay of the land and can get you up to speed quickly. Additionally, peer mentors can be especially helpful when you’re looking for a job. Approach a fellow job seeker who’s in the same line of work and join forces. By checking in with one another on a weekly basis and sharing information, you’re automatically doubling your job-search efforts and resources. Concerned about the competition? It’s unlikely that both of you will have identical goals and be perfect for the exact same job. Procure aThe Protégé You don’t have to be the mentee in the relationship to reap the benefits of a mentorship. If you’re looking to gain management experience before your first management job, mentoring others is a great place to start. Find out if there are opportunities to mentor your organization’s summer interns or approach a more junior colleague and show her the ropes. The perks of mentorships only grow as your career progresses. Not only do many find the experience rewarding, but chances are, you’ll also learn a thing or two from your mentees. These relationships come in handy later in your career, too. Should you decide to look for a new opportunity, your former apprentices are great resources for job leads and likely to be enthusiastic advocates. Tap into Non-Traditional Teachers It takes time to find the right person to be your mentor, and even more time to build a meaningful connection with that person. But that doesn’t mean you need to wait to cash in on valuable guidance! There are a number of alternative ways you can get advice to advance your career. Pick up a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, or Cathie Black’s Basic Black and start reading. Identify groups like the Forté Foundation that focus on developing and inspiring female leaders in the workplace and utilize their resources. Use your laptop or mobile device to watch a TED Talk, a session of Levo League’s Office Hours, or one of Lean In’s online lectures to continue learning while on the go. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, each offering different types and levels of support throughout your career. Consider the mentors in your life to be your own personal board of directors, helping you learn and make the best decisions when it comes to your job search and professional development. Remember, mentorship isn’t handed to you – you have to ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you meet and ask the questions you really want to know – you’ll be amazed at what may happen!

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