Mentoring seems like one of those things that's spoken about, but kind of hard to get to grips with. What does it really consist of? What even is a mentor? And how can it actually benefit you? If you're at the start of your career and need a little guidance, or perhaps there's someone you really admire who is where you'd like to be in your own career one day, what you might need is a mentor. After all, we all need a little help finding out what. Frustratingly, truth is, it can be challenging to know how to find mentor and who will be the best fit for you.
Essentially, a mentor is an experienced person who can provide you with support and advice specifically tailored to you, kind of like a professional big sibling. When you've just started out in your career, the support your work offers might not be enough and you may need someone who is a little removed from your work environment for guidance. Mentor meet ups can be pretty informal, it's not like you're having a strict boardroom meeting with your boss. It can be over a casual coffee, over the phone or anywhere that seems fitting for you. You can have a life mentor or work mentor but finding the correct one you is so important.
There are loads of ways go about finding the right mentor, it's not always easy and you might need some serious persistence. Maybe your work has a mentorship scheme where you can get partnered up with someone in your workplace. If you already have your eye on someone who you follow on social media or Linkedin, reach out to them and send them an email. It might feel a little nerve racking, but they probably had to do the same thing at the start of their own career. Lastly, if you have no clue who you would like as a mentor, do some research. Ask around at work, and look for people who you aspire to be like.
Mentors can be especially crucial if you're in a marginalised group. Perhaps you're a woman of colour who is struggling with micro-aggressions in the workplace. You may have an HR department where you can voice your complains, but additionally having someone to talk to who has gone through the same things, and who doesn't necessarily work in direct contact to you, can be really affirming.
Maybe you're a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and don't know how to come out at work, you could find a mentor who understands this and can help you navigate your career as a queer individual. You might be working class and are struggling to keep up with expensive Friday drinks rounds, and need someone to talk to from the same background who can give you solid advice.
Finding the right fit might take a little time, but make sure you know what it is you need from them and the areas in which they could support you before approaching them. To have a successful relationship with your mentor, keep in touch and try and schedule in regular meet-ups (it might be difficult if they are hard to pin down). Make sure you bring a notebook, or ask if you can record your meetings if that proves more helpful. Having a mentor will ultimately benefit your personal grown and career.