If you’re just starting your career and don’t quite know the ropes, a mentor can help you. He or she can guide you through the often difficult moves you need to succeed, avoiding landmines and seizing critically important opportunities. In fact, mentoring in today’s fiercely competitive job economy has reached a critical mass of importance, so much so that many career strategists and counselors recommend you have several mentors.
Amanda Pouchot, co-founder of the Levo League suggests that today’s young career minded professionals seek out three different kinds of mentors. A Peer Mentor who is your age; a Next-Up Mentor two to four years older than you; and a Senior Mentor much older than you. Each can offer important mentoring functions you’ll need to succeed.
The Peer Mentor
This mentor is most likely a person who is a year ahead of you in his or her career—ideally in the same company. They’re new enough to relate to exactly what you’re going through. They understand the current projects, tasks and deadlines you’re now facing. It’s still fresh in their minds, so they can relate to the demands of your job and your boss. They can advise you on the best ways to handle a task or project, and if given the opportunity, which tasks are “high visibility” and which are drone projects that generate more heat than light. They can also tell you who to know as much as what to know. The peer mentor is easy to find in large companies, but a little more challenging to locate in smaller organizations. In Why You Should Go Out of Your Way to Find an Awesome Peer Mentor, social enterprise fellow Hila Mehr offers four reasons why you should have a peer mentor and how to build a peer mentoring relationship.
The Next-Up Mentor
This mentor may be a rung up the ladder ahead of you with three to five years more experience. He or she can “hold the ladder” while you reach for the next rung, helping you set and achieve the short-term goals for a steady rise to junior management. The Next-Up Mentor will usually be a mid- to senior-level manager who is well known and respected in the company. Finding this mentor calls for a more formal approach. If you attend company functions, trade shows and seminars, you can seek these people out, initially with general questions about their job. Once you’ve established a business relationship, you can bring up the subject of mentorship. Some will have the time, others won’t. The key here is to have your questions well prepared in advance, questions about immediate career paths and how they reached their goals. But stay away from gossip and rumor mongering. In Demystifying Mentoring, contributing editor at Harvard Business Review. Amy Gallo advises career seekers to think of mentoring as both a long-term and short-term arrangement and not to rely on one person to help guide you in your career.
The Senior Mentor
This older mentor can serve as your long-term career guide. He or she may not even work in your company, but be intimately familiar with your industry. Your Senor Mentor should have the skillset and political savvy to help you with the major crossroads in your career. A mentor of this caliber can help you decide when to switch jobs, whether or not to accept a new position, which titles to seek out, and the right companies to work for. Quality Senior Mentors are hard to find. Some may even be retired or semi-retired. You can often seek them out at company social functions, at church or in health clubs. Check out this Importance of Mentoring in the Workplace video.
Need a mentor to help you navigate to the top? Consider getting three.
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