Having someone who is older, wiser or just more successful than you spend some time helping you achieve your goals is a great way to get to the next level in your career. It's called mentorship, and there are tons of benefits for both you and your mentor. For one, both of you are able to spend time thinking about what it takes to succeed in your line of work. For them, breaking down large concepts in order to teach them gives them time to focus on things they may have not really thought about in some time. It's a wonderful way to build your skills and make a new connection as well.
One of the biggest reasons that people don't have mentors is that they are hard to find. Some companies offer mentorship programs, but they are few and far between. In addition, most of those programs are targeted at new executives and don't really extend to the rank and file employees. However, you don't have to be at the top of your career to be able to benefit from the arrangement.
Once you've decided to get a mentor, how do you go about it? If your office doesn't offer any mentorship programs, look for someone whom you admire. This may be someone who works at the same company, or in the same industry as you, but it doesn't have to be. Using social networking sites like Linkedin, you can reach out to people all across the country or just across the street.
After identifying the person to be a mentor, ask them if they are interested. Don't be afraid to bring up the question. You don't have to be close friends in order for them to say "yes". Being asked to be a mentor is flattering and you'd be surprised how many professionals would agree.
Now that you have someone on board, you need to set up a plan to make it work. This means that you and your mentor have to decide when, where and how often to meet. Maybe a Skype call once a week for an hour, or a weekly Sunday brunch. It's up to you and them. Just be sure to pick a time that will be easy for you to keep and schedule meetings at least a couple of weeks at a time. This way, you can get in the habit of meeting.
It's a good idea to have a goal or a timeline in mind for what you want to accomplish. Writing down your specific goals for the mentorship will make it so much easier to know when you've reached the end of the mentoring relationship. For some people, mentoring happens throughout their career and for others, it's a way to learn the skills to get to the next level in their career. After the promotion, they may not need to continue.
Once you have the plan in place, it's really important to be honest about how much time you have to give. If you are squeezing in a meeting each week, it will be more likely that you'll have to cancel. Not meeting your obligations and cancelling sessions is the biggest reason that mentorships fail. Not keeping your promises can damage the mentoring relationship and even damage your personal relationship as well.
Have you ever thought about having a mentor? How did it turn out?