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Why You Need to Take Mentorship More Seriously

Treat your career like a business

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Christina Morillo | Pexels

For many young professionals, their primary focus is growing their career. Quickly. Constantly asking the question “how can I go further, faster?”. As new members of the workforce, it’s hard to know all the “growth hacks”. We can’t always know all the right things to do or say, and there will never be enough time for us to make all the mistakes ourselves. This is where mentorship plays a role. Mentorship gives you the “cheat codes” to professional progress. Mentorship allows you to hear the perspectives of trusted advisors and use them to make the most of your experiences.

A couple weeks ago, I listened to an episode of NPR’s Lifekit Podcast about the importance of mentorship. One of the key things I learned was the idea that you shouldn’t just have one mentor or one type of mentor. You should be forming a board of mentors, each with different roles, positions, and opinions that can help you progress in different areas of life. An article from the Harvard Business Review supports this idea as well.

Here are 4 types of mentors you should have on your board.

  1. The Advocate: Also known as a sponsor, an advocate is usually an upper level leader that you trust. They will publicly speak well of you and fight for your progress in rooms you can’t be in. The advocate needs access to the most important conversations where decisions get made.
  2. The Connector: The connector is the one who knows everyone. Their network is wide and strong, and they are willing to put you in contact with the right people to support your goals. The Connector speaks well of you to their peers, and ensures that you have access to the right people for visibility.
  3. The Strategist: Every friend group has a planner, and your board of mentors should have one too. The Strategist has a finger on the pulse of your organization or industry. They understand the company strategy, internal operations, and organizational politics. The Strategizer will partner with you in understanding the landscape, highlighting the challenges and planning out your next move.
  4. The Coach: The last and most common mentorship type is the coach. The coach has a deep understanding of your story and your goals. They have knowledge in specific areas you want to learn about and are able to advise you in day-to-day scenarios and large career decisions.

Mentors across the spectrum are an invaluable resource. A good mentor can see your life through their eyes and can use their experience to provide a new perspective. They have the ability to ask the right questions to help you think differently about your life and professional situation. Mentors can also help validate your experiences. As a young professional, you haven’t experienced every scenario. New situations or conflicts may arise, and a mentor can help you identify if something truly went wrong, or if you are actually the one that needs to change your approach.

Finding Mentors

When looking to add someone to your personal board of directors, you should first decide what type of person you want. Do you need someone who will advocate for your promotion in the next review cycle? Do you want someone to give you feedback on your latest career plans? Do you need someone who can teach you about being an effective leader? Are you looking for an identity based mentor that can relate to your experience as a minority in your field? The answers to these questions will help frame the type of person you want.

After outlining what you’re looking for in a mentor, you should start with your existing network. Does anyone you’ve worked with fit the description? If not, leverage your network to find the right person. Explain what you’re looking for and ask around to see if there is anyone your network recommends. A mentor can be inside or outside your organization, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people outside your company. In certain fields, you may be able to find mentors online, through a website like Office Hours Project.

Once you’ve identified the right person, ask them if they would like to be your mentor. Be specific about what this means to you. Share how frequently you would like to meet, what you would like to discuss, and why you picked them. If they say no, that’s ok. Continue to build a relationship with them as a member of your network. If your potential mentor says yes, you’re ready to begin your mentorship journey! Set up a regular meeting to connect with them if needed, and begin to think about what types of advice you’re looking for from them.

We can’t do it alone. Aristotle had Plato, Plato had Socrates, and even Oprah had Maya Angelou. Mentoring has long been the secret to professional success. Start filling open spots on your board of mentors and accelerate your learning and growth.

My postings reflect my own views and do not represent the views of my employer.

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human& is about sharing the content that inspires us, makes us think twice, and helps us better understand our budding careers. Our goal is to spark conversation and encourage others to learn about how organizations can keep humans at the center of their decisions.

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Nimi Oyeleye

Nimi Oyeleye

Innovation Consultant who seeks to understand human experiences. I love learning new things, including where to find the best iced vanilla lattes in Houston.

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