The Importance of Finding a Mentor

23 02 2010

What is the importance of having a mentor?  Does everyone need one?  Should a person have more than one?  These are all questions that I have asked in the past and continue to hear from students and professionals to this day. 

Before we get started, I wanted to share with you some of the terms I’ll be using.  This should help you better understand According to Wikipedia, mentorship refers to a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The receiver of mentorship was traditionally referred to as a protégé, or apprentice but with the institutionalization of mentoring the more neutral word “mentee” was invented and is widely used today.

In my opinion, there are really three main benefits of mentorship:

Learn from Career Experience

As a mentee, the professional growth that mentorship fosters is amazing.  Mentors are there for you.  Ask them how they overcame certain challenges, perhaps a work-related challenge that you’re facing at the moment.  People love to talk about themselves, especially when they know someone else is benefitting from the knowledge being shared.  It’s also a great way to ask your mentor how they got to where they are today.  Find the commonalities with them, and learn how to implement your strengths to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder. 

While you’re building this relationship with your mentor, remember that you’re also building your professional network.  Keep them in the loop with your career aspirations and goals.  Having someone in your corner as a referral can give you that added edge you’re looking for. 

Learn from Personal Experience

Some of the best conversations that I’ve had with my mentors over the years don’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of “career advice” and haven’t been tied to a specific company or industry.  Instead, it’s been the life lessons that have been passed on to me that I believe I cherish most.  Hearing stories about life, love, and family continued to help me develop as a better person.  Have you ever talked to someone on the bus, train or airplane?  It is truly fascinating how people will share things with perfect strangers.  That’s the best part of the human race – we’re conditioned to see the good in everyone and want to nurture them. 

Life is too short to go through it scared to talk to anyone or to avoid meeting new people.  My advice is to get out there, reach out, and just be nice.  A smile goes a long way – it’s made me some of the best friends I have today.

Network Across Business Lines

When most think of mentorship, they automatically think of someone in their field or line of business.  While that is beneficial to an extent, breaking out of your professional circle of comfort can bring a much better understanding regarding other industries, business, and fields of study.  By breaking outside of this circle, you have the opportunity to connect with others who may see life and business differently, bringing you a unique perspective that you didn’t have before. 

An Important Part of the Onboarding Process

Many businesses around the world, Fortune 500 or the small business started by a local entrepreneur, recognize the importance of mentorship.  Companies like PepsiCo, Inc., Walmart Stores, Inc.,  Aflac, Inc., Wells Fargo & Company, and Bimbo Bakeries USA all have programs in place that use mentorship as part of the onboarding process.  When a new hire starts their career, a member of upper-management is assigned to them to help provide leadership and guidance not only as a mentor, but as a corporate ambassador.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a professional relationship with someone who’s “been there, done that”? 

I have been very fortunate to have had many different mentors in my professional career.  Some are in my line of business (now HR and Recruiting, but formerly Broadcasting) and some are outside my realm of general knowledge.  No doubt, the advice and guidance that I have received from leaders (including my peers and competitors) has proved beneficial in the advancement of my professional career and personal growth. 

“Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” – Jim Rohn

This quote holds true in just about everything, including mentorship.  While you’re at the receiving end of advice, guidance and experience, remember that your mentor is also gaining experience from you.  Whether it’s a fresh, creative perspective on something, or new technology, in any good relationship, you’re giving just as much as you’re receiving.  A friend put it best when she said “I don’t know that I would be where I am today without my mentor. I’ve grown professionally, personally, and spiritually. Everyone needs that special person!”

So, go ahead.  Find your mentor.  Ask questions.  Learn from them.  Add value.  When you make that connection, it’s something that will stick with you throughout your development both professionally and personally.

Please feel free to add your comments below – I would certainly value your input. 

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14 responses

24 02 2010
@HRMargo

Great post. Great minds do think alike. I liked how you wove the tie in between corporate and personal mentoring. The post on my blog today http://HRMargo.com is more of a personal perspective. Your perspective is both professional and refreshing. I enjoy your posts on twitter and look forward to getting to know you better.

Your twitter pal,

@HRMargo Margo Rose http://linkedin.com/in/margorose

22 03 2010
Kirk Baumann

Margo,

Thanks for your comments on mentoring. It’s great to get a different perspective on things. Keep on blogging! :)

Kirk

25 02 2010
Steve Browne

Kirk – Thanks for putting this out there. Too many people don’t see the value in mentoring. That’s a real shame !! I think you captured this well.

One thing I’ve added when I talk about mentoring to others is – You need to have a mentor to be a mentor.

I believe that this keeps mentors grounded as well because they can speak from their experience of being mentored as well as advising/leading others.

Well done !! Love the blog !!

22 03 2010
Kirk Baumann

Thanks Steve! I appreciate the kind words and support. Your input means a lot. Keep up the great work.

Kirk

6 04 2010
10 Simple Ways to Succeed in Your New Career « Campus To Career

[...] 2.  Find a Mentor – finding a mentor(s) will help you understand the business better, learning from another person’s perspective and experience.  Ask them questions about how they got to where they are today, what their stumbling blocks were, and how they overcame those challenges.  (For more on mentorship, check out a previous post here: The Importance of Finding a Mentor) [...]

20 07 2010
5 Effective Steps for Easy Onboarding « Campus To Career

[...] Mentor me. Assign mentors to all new hires to help with personal and professional development. It’s a great opportunity for [...]

23 11 2010
Thanksgiving & the Job Search: Don’t Be a Turkey! « Campus To Career

[...] I’m sure you’ve received from many sources over the years.  You’ve been given advice from mentors, friends, co-workers, from coaches, the internet, and yes, family when it comes to your job [...]

21 12 2010
Congratulations! Now What? « Campus To Career

[...] Find a mentor or two and learn from their life experiences as well as their career experiences. [...]

12 04 2011
Why It’s Good to Travel with the Boss « Campus To Career

[...] perspective and learn more about a different industry.  See one of the archived articles, The Importance of Finding a Mentor, for more on this [...]

19 05 2012
Liza

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17 01 2012
Leaders Matter « Campus To Career

[...] Invest in yourself as a leader.  I mentioned having an action plan in the bullet above.  It’s good to have your goals in mind.  Better yet, it’s good to have them on paper with a clearly outlined action plan.  You have to invest in yourself as a leader.  Look at relevant webinars (there’s a lot out there for free,) conferences, books, blogs, etc.  Another way to invest in yourself as a leader is to find a mentor. [...]

14 07 2013
Louisville Air Conditioning Installation

Hey! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment
form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having
problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

21 07 2013
Kirk Baumann

Not sure…when all else fails, Google it. :) Sorry – I don’t use captcha. It’s a pain in the butt for users, but does help keep spam minimal…

Good luck!

3 09 2013
The 3 Major Benefits Mentors Bring to Your Career | The Savvy Intern by YouTern

[…] this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Campus to […]

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