By Kristine Milbrandt, Creative Marketing Specialist, AgCareers.com
It might sound old-school, but finding a mentor can really stimulate career growth. Mentors, by definition, are experienced and trusted advisers. Anyone can give you advice, but a mentor is someone that observes your progress toward particular goals over a long period of time. Career mentors are especially important for students and job seekers. When cultivated, a relationship with a mentor can reap many benefits.
So how does one go about finding a mentor? First, consider what you want from a mentor. What kind of advice are you looking for? Think about your goals and career objectives. Then think about who might be best to help get you on the right track toward fulfilling those goals. If you're unsure of who that might be, think about your surroundings and your current career status. Are you still in school, are you looking for a job, or do you have one and are just looking for ways to enhance your skills?
If you are enrolled in post-secondary education, you most likely have many potential mentors that you cross paths with on a regular basis. Professors and instructors in your field, career services personnel, work-study supervisors, upperclassmen or graduate students, bosses, extracurricular coaches or advisers, and more. Getting involved on campus is a great way to make connections with people who could be key in discovering interests as well as career objectives and opportunities. Take the initiative and talk to these individuals you cross paths with. They likely have years of experience and advice behind them.
If you aren't enrolled in post-secondary education and are seeking employment, you might be surprised to know that you still likely have many possible mentors around you. Think about organizations that you might already belong to or once did, church groups, members within your family, community groups and non-profit organizations, neighbors, business associations in your area, and much more. If you're willing to look, listen, and maybe step outside of your comfort zone a bit, you could find great advice in places you might not have considered.
Often, employees searching for a mentor will look to someone within their own business or office. While this may be great for some and certainly easy to access, it may not always be the best fit, especially if there is competition within your own workplace, if your workplace culture would not permit it, or if you are considering changing jobs. Networking and professional development events are excellent resources for finding mentors as are groups and organizations outside of your work.
Asking someone you don't know or are unfamiliar with to be your mentor might be uncomfortable, but the results of a mentor's advice can be very rewarding. Be straightforward once you've found someone you feel is a good fit for you and just ask. Set up a meeting to clearly discuss what you're looking for and how you feel they can help you. If they agree, continue to meet regularly and discuss your objectives. You'll find that the many rewards that come with having a mentor will help you meet your career goals. You may even find that you'd like to pay it forward in the future and mentor younger professionals yourself.