Mentors: What Are The Benefits & How To Find One To Boost Your Career

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In the journey of professional growth and career development, having a mentor can be a game-changer. A mentor is someone who guides and supports by sharing their expertise with you. Having an experienced mentor can be invaluable in helping you navigate the challenges and opportunities that come your way.

Whether you’re just starting out in your career – or looking for a push to the next level – a mentor can provide advice, insights and inspiration. Plus it’s always good to know that someone’s on your side.

Here we’ll look at the benefits of having a mentor and how you can find one to help boost your career. We’ll also tell you about our personal experiences with being mentored, and becoming the mentor.

Key points:

  • Having a mentor allows you to tap into their expertise and experience. It can also provide you with networking opportunities; work on your personal and professional development; offer unique new perspectives; and potentially help guide your career path.
  • Choosing a mentor is really a matter of finding someone you respect, and would love to learn from. Before seeking one, you should define clear goals for what you want to get out of it. Then go searching – first within your own network – and then by attending industry events, or via online platforms.
  • To approach a mentor (or even mentors), you should be respectful, and mindful of their time commitments. If they agree to mentor you, it’s best to cultivate the relationship – as it’s a two-way street after all – and be receptive to feedback, being sure to act upon it.

Mentor v coach: What’s the difference?

It’s possible to get help from either a mentor or a coach in order to grow professionally. But what’s the difference between mentoring and coaching?

Well, a mentor shares their knowledge, experience and skill with their student (sometimes referred to as a mentee), with the goal of the student taking away valuable lessons. On the other hand, a coach gives their student the space to talk and reflect, with the goal of reaching their own conclusions… In effect, learning to teach themselves.

This distinction is sometimes referred to as directive in the case of mentoring, and non-directive with regard to coaching. In a sense, a mentor gives you direction, but a coach allows you to find your own direction.

*Find out more about professional and executive coaching courses .

💡My personal experience💡

Terry

I first met Terry, an author and consultant, in London, and we were scheduled to train together, so we got to know each other.

When we trained together, it was usually in Washington DC and I’d fly out Saturday and we’d meet for breakfast Sunday, plan out the week ahead and go and do stuff together, Gym, Shopping, Walking, Dining.

After my stroke, Terry invited me to California where he was researching new material for his latest book at the University of California. I’d fly out and we’d spend the week together working learning and generally goofing about. Sadly he passed a few years ago.

Phillip

We met at a particularly low time for me personally and he was assigned to me. We hit it off.  Phillip was way less experienced than me so it began and me mentoring him but it evolved and Phillip was:

  1. A great source of feedback and motivation
  2. Great at asking the ‘dumb’ question.

Mentoring works well if there’s both a give and take.

What are the benefits of having a mentor?

There are numerous benefits of having a mentor onside, both in terms of professional development and advancing your career. Here are some of the chief advantages.

#1. Knowledge and expertise

As you might expect, one of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is gaining access to their knowledge, experience and expertise, from someone with no agenda but you. The opportunity to gain a sounding board for ideas and learn from lived experience is truly worth its weight.

When choosing a mentor, it’s best to go for someone that’s achieved a good level of success in their field. This will allow them to share their experiences and industry insights, meaning you’re learning the very best practices. They may share specific skills, techniques or a more broad industry overview – but you’ll be receiving valuable lessons which could provide a foot-up in your profession.

Our commercial director Matthew Channell adds: “Having a mentor is like having a knowledgeable ally in your corner. One of the biggest benefits is the transfer of knowledge and wisdom that you would otherwise need to accumulate through years of experience.

A mentor can guide you through challenges, offer strategic insights, and help you avoid pitfalls they’ve encountered in their career.”

#2. Networking opportunities

Mentors often have an extensive network of contacts. This means they can potentially introduce you to influential people in your industry.

Building a strong professional network can be a real boon for career advancement, as it can open doors to new opportunities and partnerships. Through your mentor’s network, you may have the opportunity to expand your connections, and form collaborations. Ultimately, this will get you better known within the industry.

“Mentors can also help expand your network, as they likely have made numerous connections in their career.

These new connections can open doors to opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible.” – Matthew Channell, Commercial Director at TSW

#3. Personal and professional development

A mentor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, providing constructive feedback to help you improve. They can offer guidance on setting goals , developing action plans and monitoring your progress.

Plus mentors can offer emotional support and encouragement during challenging times. As such, having a mentor can be a real boost to your confidence and resilience. They might even become a friend and guide.

“Mentors can also provide constructive criticism to foster your growth, something that can be hard to receive from peers or subordinates.

This feedback is invaluable as it aids self-awareness, a key factor in professional and personal development” – Matthew Channell, Commercial Director at TSW

#4. New perspectives

By offering different perspectives and challenging your thinking and assumptions, a mentor can broaden your horizons and ask the difficult questions to get you to think. They can provide fresh insights and alternative approaches to problem-solving, helping you see situations with a fresh point of view. Did somebody say “outside the box”?

This exposure to diverse viewpoints can enhance your creativity, critical thinking and decision-making abilities.

#5. Career guidance and direction

While not a given, it’s certainly possible that a mentor could help you navigate your career path. They may provide advice on job opportunities or promotions, for instance. They could even guide you towards sideways steps or different directions you may not have thought of.

By learning about your mentor’s career journey, you may be able to make more informed decisions about your own.

Lastly, mentors provide a level of emotional and psychological support that’s essential in navigating the stresses and pressures of a career.

They can act as a sounding board, offering reassurance and perspective in times of doubt or struggle.” – Matthew Channell, Commercial Director at TSW

How do I find a mentor?

If you decide that you’d like to take on a mentor for personal and professional advancement – good for you! It’s a decision you won’t regret. But where do you start looking for one? Here are a few pointers when looking for your sensei.

#1. Define your goals

Before you start, you need to define your goals – both personal and professional.

  • What do you hope to achieve through the mentorship?
  • Are you looking for someone in your current industry or are you exploring a new one?
  • Do you need guidance on specific skills or general career advice?

Having a clear vision of your objectives will help you find a mentor whose expertise aligns with your aspirations.

#2. Reach out within your network

Start by exploring your existing network for potential mentors. This could include current or former colleagues, managers, tutors, someone you have worked with in the past or industry professionals you admire and respect, or even someone in your family or friends.

You even find a personal recommendation from someone who has used one before. Often, the best mentoring relationships grow organically from pre-existing relationships.

Reach out to them, expressing your interest in establishing a mentorship relationship. We’ll look at how to approach this below.

#3. Attend industry events

Attend conferences, seminars and networking events within your industry. These gatherings provide an opportunity to meet professionals who may be up for the challenge of mentoring you.

Be proactive! Approach individuals you find inspiring or knowledgeable, expressing your interest in their guidance.

#4. Use online platforms

Numerous online platforms and communities can spark mentorship connections. Professional organisations in your industry are good resource. They often have formal mentoring programs you can join. LinkedIn is another obvious one for connecting with potential mentors in your desired field. But there are plenty of other platforms such as Meetup, or even Facebook.

Scour industry-specific forums. This could provide the chance to connect with professionals open to mentorship. Join relevant groups, engage in conversations, and express your interest in learning from those with plenty of experience.

💡Matthew’s experience💡

Being a mentee

In my own career, I have been fortunate to have had several mentors who have made a significant impact on my development. Each one brought unique insights and perspectives that helped me on my path.

One mentor, in particular, challenged my thinking and encouraged me to get outside of my comfort zone. This not only increased my skill set but also boosted my confidence, allowing me to take on greater leadership roles.

Mentoring has been instrumental in my career development. My mentors have helped me gain a broader perspective, taught me valuable leadership skills, and provided the tools I needed to navigate professional situations.

Becoming the mentor:

Conversely, as a mentor, I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction from seeing my mentees grow and succeed. It’s been a learning experience for me as well, as each mentee brings new perspectives and challenges that keep me on my toes.

Being a mentor has improved my leadership skills. It has challenged me to articulate my knowledge and experience in a way that others can learn from. Furthermore, it’s enhanced my empathy and understanding of different perspectives, which has improved my ability to manage and lead diverse teams.

To sum up, both being a mentee and a mentor have been invaluable in my career development. They’ve provided me with the opportunity to learn, grow, and share knowledge, enriching my professional journey in immeasurable ways.

How do I approach potential mentors?

If you identify professionals you’d like as mentors, it’s time to reach out to them directly. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

#1. Be respectful

When approaching potential mentors, it’s important to be mindful of their time. Craft a thoughtful and concise message explaining why you admire their work; what your specific goals are; and how their guidance would be valuable to your career.

#2. Establish a connection

Build a connection by attending industry events where they may be speaking or offering workshops. Engage with their content on social media. By demonstrating your genuine interest and appreciation for their work, you increase the chances of them considering a mentorship relationship.

#3. Be open to multiple mentors

There’s nothing which says you can have just the one mentor. Different mentors can offer a range of perspectives, providing unique insights and expertise in different fields relevant to your career.

#4. Cultivate the relationship (personal & professional)

Once you’ve established a mentorship relationship, be sure to nurture it. Treat your mentor’s time and advice with respect. And always be prepared ahead of meetings, ask thoughtful questions, and actively listen to their guidance. It’s a reciprocal relationship, so be sure to keep them updated on your progress, expressing gratitude for their support.

If you have sufficient emotional intelligence, the personal and professional relationship should run smoothly, and the two do blend. You build up a solid trust, because you get to know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities.

“Balancing the professional and personal in a mentor-mentee relationship can be tricky. However, establishing clear boundaries from the start can help ensure a healthy relationship.

It’s essential to keep the relationship focused on learning and growth. Regularly scheduled meetings with clear agendas can ensure that you stay on track. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and make sure to prepare for your meetings to make the most out of them.

However, it’s also important to let the relationship evolve naturally. Sharing personal experiences and challenges can often provide context and depth to the advice and guidance given.

Lastly, mutual respect and trust form the foundation of any mentor-mentee relationship. It’s important to create a safe environment where both parties feel comfortable to speak honestly and openly.” – Matthew Channell, Commercial Director at TSW

#5. Seek feedback, and act on it

You should be open to feedback and constructive criticism from your mentor. Their insights could have a profound effect on your professional growth – so always be receptive, and act on any advice they give you.

Our Commercial Director, Matthew Channell adds: “Always remember, when you find a potential mentor, be respectful of their time and don’t be discouraged if they can’t commit. Finding the right mentor is a process.

Mentorship in practice

Having a mentor can significantly impact your career trajectory and personal growth. As mentioned, the benefits of having a mentor are numerous, not least in boosting your personal and professional development.

For proof that mentorship could really launch your career, there are several examples of successful businesspeople who greatly value their mentors. For example, Richard Branson speaks of mentor Sir Freddie Laker, who helped him get Virgin Atlantic off the ground. 

With the guidance of a mentor, you may find it’s possible to face challenges head-on, accelerate your career and realise your full potential. Go on… What have you got to lose?

If you’re responsible for guiding staff in your workplace, you may be interested in our ILM level 5 course in coaching and mentoring .

Picture of Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew Wallbridge
Andrew is TSW's Head of Leadership & Management. He’s coached and mentored leaders and the senior management teams at international brands.
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