Do I Need a Mentor: Mentors and the Benefits
While you can certainly succeed all on your own, mentors and the benefits of having one cannot be overstated. As individuals, we can only experience a certain amount of growth before we start to plateau. This is where having a mentor—a person who is always in your corner, who challenges you to thrive in your personal and professional life—is an invaluable asset. A mentor will stop you just as you start to plateau. Instead, they nudge you on to better things up hill.
What is a mentor?
You may be wondering exactly what or who a mentor is. Simply put, a mentor is a person who advises you through their own experience and can be anyone from a friend, to a tutor, professor, or colleague. But typically when we’re talking about mentors, we’re talking about career mentors: veterans of any professional field committed to guiding their juniors. At its core, the mentor-mentee relationship is an exchange. The relationship is unique in that there are no expectations—rather, just an open flow of attention and support.
Getting a mentor is as simple as asking. Of course you wouldn’t want to ask just anyone to be your mentor. Your mentor should be someone who you already have a working relationship with, who you have witnessed rise to the challenge, and who is already successful in your field of work.
Mentors provide guidance
The greatest asset of having a mentor is access to unfiltered advice. Your mentor has your best interest at heart and will help guide you through any dilemma in your career. Perhaps you’re having difficulty with a certain task at work, or you’re starting to feel lost, fading into the background of your workplace. Talking to your mentor about these worries will help you locate the root of your fears and establish a plan of action. Having a mentor inherently creates a system of checks and balances that hinders you from making impulsive decisions.
Mentors will challenge you. It’s easy to feel challenged when you are in school, with daily assignments and teachers you are required to report back to. But once you enter the workplace, you are on your own. You won’t often receive personalized attention. Beyond your work projects, there is no larger goal you’re striving towards—no graduation ceremony or ribbon-wrapped diploma. We hear the story often: so-and-so started a job intending for it to be temporary. However they are still working that job ten years later, having completely lost touch with their prior goals. This means that, in order to avoid becoming complacent in your career, you will need to create your own challenges—but it can be incredibly tough to self-implement these challenges. This is where having a mentor is perhaps most important, as a good mentor will always push you to do more while still being emotionally attentive and considerate.
Mentors help you make more connections
Another great thing about mentors and the benefits is networking. Given that your mentor will be someone older and more experienced, it’s likely that they will have an expansive network of colleagues and friends that you can tap into. While it can be intimidating to ask for an introduction to people who can help further your career, they will be delighted to help. In fact, they will likely already be doing this without you having to ask. Remember, people like to help other people. It’s what makes the world go round!
In taking on a mentee, a mentor doesn’t ask for or expect anything in return. Mentoring is not a job, it’s a volunteer position. When you begin to consider mentors and the benefits, it’s important that you show them your gratitude. This doesn’t have to be anything more complicated than saying to them: I know you have a lot going on in your own life, and I’m incredibly grateful for all the time and help you’ve given me. Having a mentor is a gift in life that everyone deserves. It’s never too late to ask someone to take you as their mentee—it might even make their day.