Whether you’re working at a summer internship or embarking on your first full-time job, getting a mentor at work is one of the best things you can do for your career. A long-established practice, mentorship helps you develop your professional skills while also giving you a better sense of how to navigate challenges (and successes) in the workplace.
Here are the steps you should take when seeking out a mentor at work.
1. Outline your professional goals
Before you can establish a relationship with a mentor, you need to know what you want to get out of it. Are you interested in developing your managerial skills or more focused on identifying a career path you can follow for the next three to five years? Your answer will determine what type of mentorship you need and help you get a sense of the kind of person who can help you achieve those goals.
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure of your exact goals, make a list of the things that you’re most interested in achieving professionally. This can include projects you want to work on, positions you want to hold and the type of environment you want to work in. Once you have your list, structure your goals according to priority and create an actionable plan based on your highest priority goals.
2. Identify the type of mentor who can help you achieve them
Now that you have a good grasp on your goals, identify one or two people at your company who can help you achieve them. For example, if you’re working as an account executive on a sales team and your goal is to become a relationship manager, a current relationship manager or account director could be a great mentor.
Pro Tip: Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in a more senior role. Depending on your goals, you might decide to pick a peer instead. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to learn skills that will help you succeed in your current role and another team member has already successfully developed those skills.
3. Establish a connection with your potential mentor
If your company has a mentorship program, this is a great place to start since mentors in these programs are already willing and able to take on mentees. If not, the best way to develop a relationship with a potential mentor is by asking them to grab coffee and chat about work. If you’re on the same team, you can use your current projects as a starting point. If you’re on different teams, you can explain why you think their expertise is valuable and what you’d like to learn from them.
Pro Tip: Although asking someone to be your mentor might seem a little awkward, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, most people are flattered by the prospect of being asked to mentor others. By establishing a good rapport beforehand, you’re more likely to get a positive answer and to start things off on the right foot.
4. Develop a mutually beneficial relationship
Once you’ve gotten a sense of whether or not the person is interested in becoming your mentor, the next step is to outline your goals and explain how they can help you achieve them. Since your mentor is likely to be a busy professional with a lot on their plate, coming to the mentorship with a clear sense of what you’re hoping to get out of it will ensure that you maximize the time you have with them while also being mindful of their busy schedule.
Pro Tip: A good mentor-mentee relationship goes both ways and it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re establishing a relationship with your mentor. The best way to ensure that you’re adding value to the relationship is by asking your mentor if there is any way that you can help them in return. For example, if your mentor is working on a project that you’d like to learn more about, offer to pitch in and help even if it’s not part of your current responsibilities.
Having a mentor at work can be a wonderful way to advance your career while learning new skills and refining your professional goals. If you’re interested in finding a mentor, having a strong sense of what you want to get out of the relationship (and what you can give back) will go a long way toward helping you establish a great mentor-mentee relationship.