THE VALUE OF FINDING A MENTOR IN THE WORKPLACE
THE VALUE OF FINDING A MENTOR IN THE WORKPLACE
Throughout my professional years, one of the most impactful steps I have taken in my career was finding a female mentor. My mentor and I have now been intentionally meeting once a month for over three years now, and I have gained an immense amount of wisdom from this strong, successful woman.
Mentor-mentee relationships can start formally, such as through a mentor program organised by your company, or informally, developing overtime with a colleague or friend. The starting point is not as important as purposefully setting aside time to focus on conversations that help both of you develop professionally and support each other in the workplace. Finding and developing a relationship with a mentor takes vulnerability, and can be intimidating at first. However, I promise you, it’s worth the initial effort.
Need a little extra convincing to take the first step towards finding a mentor? Here are some of the many benefits in finding a mentor in the workplace:
Tap into Experience.
The obvious benefit of having a female mentor in your workplace is her ability to share with you lessons learned from her own experiences as a working professional. Mentors do not necessarily need to be older than you, but they will likely have spent more time or have more experience in a specific profession or skill set than you. More experience provides a greater amount of opportunities to learn not only hard skills, such as technological tools, but also soft skills, such as working effectively with people of various personalities - both of which are important in the workplace. We learn well from experience, and when you’re able to tap into someone else’s experience, in addition to your own, your professional growth will multiply.
Gain Professional Knowledge and Skills.
As a working professional I have learned that being successful in the workplace is more than the job training you receive, or the previous education you’ve received. The workplace is also about dealing with imperfect people, challenging situations, managing emotions, learning how to act professionally - and these things are rarely included in a standard job training. A mentor can teach and help you navigate these parts of professional life that are not always taught or explained to us directly.
Create a Safe Place for Questions.
A great element of a mentor-mentee relationship is that questions are not only welcome, they are encouraged. Since the point of a mentor is to help develop a mentee professionally, workplace questions are safe to ask. Questions about working well with certain personalities, skills you are struggling with such as time management, workplace barriers holding back your career - these topics are all on the table. While we ask our coworkers and managers questions all the time, they are usually job specific, not about developing you professionally as an individual. Your mentor can field questions about your career life that you may not feel comfortable asking your manager or your colleagues on a day-to-day basis.
Learn More About Your Organization.
Since your mentor is likely to have spent more time working at your company, or at least in your field, they will have more foundational knowledge of the inner workings of the business that aren’t always discussed during the hours of your day job. As a professional trying to work your way up in the company or industry, foundational knowledge can be extremely beneficial. Understanding how certain departments work together, the challenges of a certain work event, etc. will better prepare you in your current role, and future role.
Expand Your Network.
Investing in a mentor-mentee relationship also expands your network, as you’re not only adding your mentor to your own network, but also tapping into their network as well. As we spend most of our time during the week at work, getting to know more people in your organization can create an even more enjoyable and friendly workplace. My mentor is a manager in a different department in my company, so I was able to meet and get to know colleagues I would probably never have worked with in my individual role.
Grow Your Opportunity.
Not only does expanding your workplace network increase and improve relationships with coworkers, but it can also expose us to new opportunities and professional development ideas we would not otherwise be aware of. Different people expose us to a variety of ideas and career paths, and as we come into contact with, we are exposed to a greater amount of opportunity and connection. Investing in relationships at work not only makes work a more enjoyable place to be, but can also help open doors for you in the future that you may not be able to see in the present.
Break the Silos.
Another great benefit of mentorship is that you don’t have to take steps alone professionally. Having a mentor that has already gone through professional firsts - such as becoming a manager for the first time, or presenting to the Board of your organization - means when you take those initial steps, they seem less scary. During a normal day at work, you likely don’t talk with your coworkers about how nervous they were the first time they had a direct report, or the mistakes they made when they took over that new project. This can make us feel like we are the only ones who feel not ready, or scared. But the truth is, everyone has felt doubt at some point along their career. A mentor-mentee relationship allows room for vulnerability in conversations, which creates an excellent environment to break the professional silos.
It’s only natural when you’re being vulnerable and sharing your hopes and struggles with someone to develop a friendship. Overtime, your mentor becomes someone you can rely on and someone you greatly respect - and who doesn’t want a friend like that?
Continue the Mentorship Cycle.
As you learn the dynamics of being a mentee, it slowly and silently prepares you to become a mentor yourself. After benefitting from having someone invest in you, don’t be surprised if you feel the desire to pay it forward and help invest in others.
The benefits of mentorship far outweigh the inconvenience or intimidation one may feel when trying to start a mentor-mentee relationship. Whether you’ve been considering starting a mentor-mentee relationship in the workplace before, or if you’ve never even thought about it, I hope these words give you the little extra push you need to take this next step in your career. Your future professional self will thank you. Remember, success is hardly even gained alone, and as women, we can be each other's best support system for furthering our professional careers.