During your career, having a mentor to advise you can be a significant factor in your success, including the ability to navigate a company, pursuing new relationships, and ultimately advance your career. Finding the right mentoring relationship can be easier than one may think, but you could be asking; what is a mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. For your personal and professional development, there are many ways to identify and pursue the right mentor.
In my own experiences, I’ve found that a mentor can be an invaluable advantage to all professionals, regardless of where they are on their career path. For tech consultants who are working on short-term or long-term projects, it can be beneficial to have a mentor guide you through your numerous opportunities. Or to be a voice of wisdom in between positions. Either way, a mentor is someone who can give insight into different perspectives and avenues to success, whether you are a consultant or full-time employee.
With the technology industry rapidly evolving, every part of an organization’s daily functions is dependent on employee, manager and C-suite level individual’s ability to evolve too. With a tech mentor, they can advise you on details such as, technical analysis, introducing a better system, or instructing you on how to use the latest technology, along with past trial and error experiences.
As a lifelong professional in the IT staffing business, I have witnessed many professional relationships evolve into mentorships. We encourage our leaders to follow the principles of a mentorship, to guide our employees and consultants during and after their time with us. It is a continuous process that isn’t focused on what one party can do for the other, but on how the relationship can grow stronger, and ultimately create a long-lasting trusting relationship.
Now that I’ve outlined just some of the benefits to having a mentor, here are a few ways to identify the right mentor for your career development:
Look for Someone Who Has Been in Your Position
There’s a reason why it’s listed on every job description. Experience is a priceless tool in every professional’s toolbox, however some have more than others. Whether it’s tenure-based or diversity, experience is experience. Someone who has been through the ropes of your current job is going to have the insight and wisdom to give when needed. Look at your organization, examine who came before you and where did they move to. Did they move up to a manager position? Or laterally to a similar role? These individuals would be potential mentors to go to, because they have done the work and are still at the same company, so they know the ins-and-outs of the position.
Occasionally Find an Alternative Opinion
In today’s rapidly changing world, you must be vigilant and seek out multiple avenues to develop your skills and advance your career. For our consultants, we serve as a trusted advisor to guide them through the hiring process, because it’s our specialty. Having a couple of mentors who specialize in different industries, skill sets, or locations than yourself can offer a new perspective and added unfiltered opinions. Furthermore, when you have more than one mentor, you expand your network and have more people to turn to with questions or opportunities.
Seek a Mentor Who Will Be Honest
When seeking a new mentor, it’s important to remember that a mentor is meant to provide you with honest advice. Every now and then, mentors are required to enforce tough love in the interest of the mentee, especially when teaching the basics of a good work ethic. A mentor’s ability to be open and honest is essential to having a fluid relationship between both parties.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make the First Move
Most of the time, a mentorship transpires naturally. Be on the look-out for those individuals whom you already have strong bonds with, and don’t be afraid to formally ask them to be your mentor. If anything, it’s flattering for your mentor to be formally asked and then there isn’t any question whether you can regularly ask them for guidance or not. Get to know your mentor on a deeper level; commitment is a driving force behind any relationship, put time and effort to enable that connection to grow.
Paying it Forward
From a mentor’s side or individuals who are at the leadership level; be on the lookout for employees early on in their careers who show growth potential. By identifying potential leaders, you can instill a foundation of learning, and professional development early on, which can grow into a lifelong mentorship. Like any relationship, a mentorship can benefit both parties, which is why I encourage all of our managers and executives to pay it forward to our internal employees and consultants. By mentoring entry to mid-level team members, our managers develop their own leadership skills, and learn in the process from new experiences and challenges. Some companies even have professional programs to connect team members with each other.
Mentors can be anyone you have similar values with, or someone who has had a strong influence in your personal and professional development. To gain the most out of a mentorship both sides (mentor-mentee) should always be looking to continuously learn and grow. Next time you have a second, take a look at professional leaders, notable connections, and diverse individuals. Your mentor could be closer than you think!
Michael Cohen is the Senior Vice President of Service Delivery at ConsultNet, one of the nation’s most respected IT staffing firms.