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Want to Succeed? Get Yourself a Mentor

May 20, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

What’s the difference between those who succeed in their careers and those who don’t? There are plenty of differences—but a strong mentor relationship is one of the deciding factors. Those with mentors often get promoted faster, learn the business faster, and forge stronger connections than those without.

You may think that finding a mentor is a matter of luck—the mentor has to choose you. But in reality, you can initiate and cultivate this relationship on your own. Here are  few tips for getting a mentor.

Know what you need

In order to target the right person to be your mentor, you need to know what you want to get out of the relationship. Do you need to increase your knowledge and skills for short-term progress? Are you looking to make helpful connections in the industry? What experiences would benefit you most that a mentor might be able to provide? Have a strong sense of your goals—and be aware that you may need different mentors at different times in your life or for different objectives.

Teacher and Graduates

It’s not easy to get ahead. But having a mentor within your company, industry or school can help you a great deal.

Talk to your company

Many companies have mentorship programs that pair new workers with those who have more experience. See if your company has an established program that can match you with someone who can help you with your specific goals.  If your company doesn’t have an established program, talk to supervisors or coworkers to see if they know of anyone who might be interested in being a mentor to you.

Initiate the conversation

Many people wait for mentors to come to them—and many don’t get the mentor relationships they’re looking for. Take the initiative and start the conversation yourself, and you demonstrate your own self-confidence and commitment. But don’t just ask the individual if he or she wants to mentor you. Instead, have a plan. Share your goals, your accomplishments, and the types of skills needed to get to the next step—and explain to the person how they can help you.

Lead the relationship

As the mentee, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re getting what you need from the relationship. The first time you meet with your mentor, explain how you work best, your desired outcomes from mentoring, and what you expect from your mentor. In addition, be sure to ask the mentor questions—know what will be expected of you, how the mentor prefers to work with students and mentees, and what the  mentor wants to gain from the relationship.

Know when it’s not working

It’s important to know when a relationship is not working. Continually evaluate the mentorship as time passes. Ask yourself whether you are gaining the skills you need to meet your goals; whether your mentor is making adequate time for you; and whether he or she is interested in your progress. The best mentors are very engaged and interested in the success of their protégés—if yours doesn’t seem to be, he or shendents of e may not be the best choice for this relationship.

It’s not easy to get ahead. But having a mentor within your company or industry can help you a great deal. As the mentee or protégé, it’s your responsibility to take the lead in initiating and guiding the relationship toward what you want—but know what your mentor wants to get out of the relationship as well. If you can find a mentor who is interested and engaged in your career, you are likely to go far.

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