Jumping straight into my first full-time job after graduating from university just under a year ago, you could say I’ve pretty much been like a sponge so far, soaking up everything I can on a daily basis (including a questionable amount of caffeine). Like any fresh grad, I want to take all the right notes, obtain all the necessary certifications, and get the low-down on all the Excel formulas that’ll make my day-to-day tasks easier.
I of course anticipated having to do a lot of learning and upskilling. However, what I wasn’t expecting, and what I actually underestimated, was the level of influence that some of the people within my workplace would have on both my professional and personal development. In other words, I had not yet been exposed to the power of mentorship.
(n); The guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution.
Oxford English Dictionary
The key word in this definition is guidance. The brilliant thing about starting out in a new position or a new industry is that you have the opportunity to be guided by those who have walked the multiple paths that lie ahead of you.
This isn’t to say that mentoring should be limited to newbies; regardless of your level of experience, there’s always value to be found in having a mentor. There’s no textbook or educational course that can match the benefits that this has to offer. I truly believe that this is the bread and the butter of it all: this is how you grow.
Being mentored stems way beyond the standard practice of taking notes while someone with more experience talks you through a new step-by-step process.
These are the three main benefits of mentorship that have stood out to me:
A mentor helps to expand your perspective by suggesting new ways to think about things. This is beneficial as it allows you to advance your thinking in situations that may seem demanding or difficult.
When you’re unsure of how to approach something, you go off what you know from previous experience. When you don’t have the experience behind you, it’s helpful to have someone to turn to that has “been there, done that”, as they can share what they’ve learned from similar situations. This is vital to speeding up your career progression, as your mind and mindset are always going to be your most important asset.
Having a mentor to support you no matter what allows you to push yourself further out of your comfort zone. A mentor is someone who wants to see you succeed, and they usually won’t hesitate to give you a nudge in the right direction when it’s needed.
We all have crappy days and stressful weeks. Having a mentor who will encourage you to keep your chin up during the tricky time, is a bit like having an extra pair of eyes that can see the finish line ahead of you, even when you can’t.
Sometimes the best way to perfect your craft is to find someone who does it better, and aim to copy what they do (while putting your own spin on it, of course). Your mentor should be someone who inspires you, and who has proven to be talented in the areas that you want to evolve in.
Observe the way they do things, ask all the questions you can, and then ask again if you don’t understand. In order to build yourself up, you must surround yourself with people you aspire to be like. The more you start to understand the how and the why of everything they do, the quicker your own skills will advance.
As they say, behind every successful person, there’s a mentor who helped them along the way. Just look at Oprah Winfrey, who was mentored by Maya Angelou, or Mark Zuckerberg, who was mentored by Steve Jobs. Need I say more?
So, whether you’re a newbie starting out, or waist-deep in experience, there’s always value in finding a mentor (or several) to walk with you along your career journey. It doesn’t take much; a simple chat over coffee is all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.