Starting a career in any industry can feel like being on the bottom step of a ladder.
In the coming years, you will attempt to make your way up that ladder, gaining promotions and more responsibility at your job.
Having a mentor who can help you on that journey makes all the difference.
Navigating the Workplace as a Woman
There are so many factors to juggle when navigating the workplace, especially for women. Between learning skills, understanding roles at a company, building a network of contacts and gaining respect, a lot goes into developing a successful career.
Mentors can play a crucial role in the process. When you begin a new job at the start of your career, it can feel overwhelming. Walking into work on that first day, not knowing anyone or what they expect from you.
Having a mentor can change all that.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor is an experienced or trusted advisor who will be there to help you during your career in the coming decades. A mentor is someone who will advise or train you, taking you under their wing for the next few years.
Understanding Mentoring vs. Coaching
It is easy to confuse mentoring with coaching. A coach is someone who is training you for a finite time. Their goal is to iron out your weaknesses, while building up your strengths.
A coach will show you what behaviors may harm you at work, while pointing out qualities that will help you deliver a stronger performance. That is not necessarily the work of a mentor.
Someone who is serving as a mentor is establishing a long term relationship, with the goal being to support the growth of the mentee. When you find a mentor, it should be a person who is providing teaching, support and wisdom where and when it is necessary.
A mentor is not there to critique your day to day work. They do not coach you on how to behave, what tasks to complete and what education to seek. Their role is an overarching one, delivering advice, opening doors and relaying their own experiences to benefit your journey.
In addition, coaches are more focused on improving results. They see interaction with others at the company as a way to improve their productivity. A mentor cares more about your development.
Your mentor will care about your overall career trajectory, your place at the company, how you are handling your work/life balance, and any other issues you may be experiencing.
How to Identify Your Ideal Mentor
A mentor is someone who should be in a higher position at a company. The ideal mentor does not have to be your immediate boss – or the head of a company.
It could be someone who heads another department or serves in middle management. But it should be an individual who has the necessary experience to give you relevant advice as you make your way up the ladder.
When seeking a mentor, look for someone who has the personality that is a compliment to your own. If you are constantly abrasive or engaged in a “back and forth” with that person, they are probably not a good mentor.
Conversations with your mentor should make you feel like it is a natural fit. As though you can easily open up with them about the challenges you are facing at work. And your mentor should be an individual who is comfortable delivering general advice that will help you grow and develop.
If you find that your chosen mentor is focusing too much on little details, such as telling you how to complete a project or what department to work in, then you may need to find someone else. A mentor offers encouragement, support and guidance. But they do not deliver specific advice on each step of your career.
Sometimes it can help to find a mentor who may not be involved in your day to day work at the business. A bit of distance can be helpful, as it can be a conflict if your mentor is also someone who is directly assigning you work.
If you are curious for more information about interacting with a mentor, you can watch this short video that will give you some good tips. Now you will be prepared to look for a mentor and interact with them at work!
How a Mentor Can Help You at Work
When you arrive at a new company, it can feel as though you are in uncharted waters – navigating a path that no one has gone through before.
But there is a good chance that someone else went through a very similar career trajectory to what you are planning. By finding a mentor who shares the goals that you have for yourself – and achieved them – you can use their experiences to your advantage.
In your conversations with your mentor, you can learn about how they made the leap from one position to another. You will even hear about the setbacks they experienced.
Situations they wish could have been handled differently. It is not only about hearing how they accomplished so much – but understanding they went through difficult moments professionally as well.
Women have pushed through the glass ceiling in many professions. Learning from a mentor who went through that process, earning the position they deserved and getting the result of their colleagues, is invaluable.
And there are still so many challenges ahead. From equal pay to maternity leave to other issues, women still face hurdles at the workplace. Having a mentor can help you identify the best strategy to navigate these and other issues.
A Safe Space
Working in any professional environment can be challenging. Most offices can be very political, in how everyone is looking out for themselves and vying for promotions. Everyone has their own agenda, while you must look out for your best interests.
It can be difficult to find someone you can trust. A person who can serve as your confidant, where you can tell them about your challenges, struggles or positive accomplishments.
When you are in a room with your mentor, it is a safe space. When you are having a bad day and need to vent, they are the person who you can share with.
And they will share with you! It is a mutually beneficial relationship that allows young women to learn so much about the environment where they are working.
Finding an Advocate
Aside from being an ally who is there to hear your thoughts and provide wisdom related to their experiences, a mentor is your advocate. Now you have an ally at the company that you can trust.
If you experience a difficult situation at work, your mentor will be there to guide you through that process. They will have your back, which can be invaluable in any professional setting.
Even if you are new at a company, it can be helpful to find a mentor who can help you make the next step in your professional journey.
An Honest Perspective
Sometimes we all need a little brutal honesty in our lives. When you tell your girlfriends about your day at work, they will likely be supportive. And the same is true when you are facing a moment of struggle.
A mentor is someone who will offer support. But they will also be willing to tell you the truth.
There may be situations where you did not act in the best possible way. Perhaps you did not keep your cool, or you lost track of your priorities. Your mentor will let you know, in the most helpful way.
Getting that type of honesty from someone you trust and respect can be invaluable. It can help you to grow as a professional, while putting your life back on the right track.
Seeking Career Advice
Mentors are fantastic as an example to look up to. They are also valuable when you want to discuss the next steps in your career.
Say you are offered two incredible opportunities after a few years at your current job. You may not be sure about what opportunity to take. Talking it over with friends and family helps, but the advice of your mentor may be the most pertinent.
In a mentor, you have someone who has lived through those moments. They know what it is like to feel the fear, anxiety, anticipation and excitement when you are deciding on various opportunities.
Your mentor can help you clear your mind, separate the noise from what you are truly feeling, and make the best decision for your career.
Take your time in finding the ideal mentor. Do not jump for the first senior professional who takes an interest in your career. Ensure it is a good fit and that your mentor has your best interests in mind!
By finding the right mentor, developing your relationship, and being confident enough to confide in them, you will be able to gain invaluable knowledge that will stay with you for the rest of your career.
Here at Work It Sister, I’ll help you to be career confident and become a perfect candidate and get noticed by recruiters. I’ll show you how to write an amazing resume, raise your game online with a fantastic Linkedin profile, increase your job search success and get you ready to interview to get the job you want, get a promotion or move up the career ladder.
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