Whether you’re just getting started or are more seasoned in your career, having a mentor could have a big impact.
A mentor can come in a variety of forms – someone to help you define and pursue goals early in your career, help you transition into a new type of role, or act as a sounding board at different stages of your professional journey.
To understand successful mentorship, you have to look at the different types of mentor relationships, the goals and dynamics of each type, and how mentorship can benefit both the mentor and mentee.
Types of mentorship
The classic example of traditional mentorship is a senior executive in a company offering advice to a junior employee, whether as part of a structured mentorship plan or an informal arrangement. Many law firms, for example, have mentorship programs in place to pair partners or senior associates with first-year associates within the same practice area.
Traditional mentorships are also common among newly minted executives. Someone might seek a mentor upon receiving a promotion or being tasked with managing a team for the first time.
A “transformational mentorship” — a relationship that is often between peers or colleagues — can also be beneficial, according to Nour. He mentions Albert Einstein’s relationships with Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr as an example, a relationship in which the three met with goals of collaborating and idea-sharing.
Benefits of mentorship
At its core, mentorship is about sharing expertise, experience, and ideas. Those are things that can always benefit professionals.
Aimee Bertrand, executive vice president and CEO of the Greater Houston Builders Association, says mentorship has played a significant role in her career, both through formal programs and informal relationships.
“I've been mentored in a couple of different ways,” Bertrand said. “I had a structured mentorship program, where I met with somebody on a regular basis and we talked through specific issues professionally, but I also have had a number of folks who took me under their wing and gave me really great advice on a more ad hoc basis. I continue to have that.”
In addition to developing soft skills, here are a few other benefits of mentorships:
- Fostering relationships - Building your professional network could open the door to new opportunities whether you want to advance at your current company or a new organization.
- Fresh perspectives - Having a mentorship with someone whose background and experience are different from yours can open the minds of both the mentor and mentee and help shift viewpoints.
- Personal development - While mentorships are often referenced in a professional sense, having guidance can help you become more confident, well-rounded, and grow personally.
A mentorship isn’t just for the mentee’s benefit; it can benefit the mentor, too. Bertrand mentors junior colleagues and interns as a way of paying it forward, yet she recognizes the long-term benefits of guiding the next group of leaders.
“Having those relationships broadens the horizon and the perspective on what I'm working on, and it's led to some great partnerships and opportunities.”
Finding a mentor
Mentorships don’t have to be established through formal programs, and there’s no requirement that a mentor and mentee work for the same company.
When looking for a traditional mentor, consider people who are either in a role you want to be in long-term or have knowledge of the career path you want to pursue. Outside of your company, you might find a mentor through a professional organization, a local alumni chapter for a school or program you’ve attended, or through an online community like Fishbowl.
If you prefer a formal structure, be patient. Search for a program in your field or region, but remember that the application window or program launch could still be months away.
Your job, no matter what it is, will consume a significant number of your waking hours, so finding the right job and career path has a direct impact on your overall quality of life. A great mentor can help you refine your objectives, solve problems, and grow professionally. Are you ready to own your career? Get started in finding your mentor.