The importance of mentors

As a young professional, I’ve been grateful many times over that I learned the importance and value of mentors early on in my career. I’ve been disappointed to learn this hasn’t been the case for many others that I know, and have certainly realized that they have been a great privilege that I’ve enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into these relationships, but I certainly am lucky that I had people willing to invest in me.

So why are mentors so important? I’ve been reflecting on this throughout the process of changing jobs, and here’s a list of a few things I’ve come up with that will hopefully should shed light on why you need a mentor, if you don’t already have one.

  1. They can offer you expertise and guidance. One of the main reasons you should seek out a mentor is that they will hopefully have experience in whatever your profession is and be able to offer up their advice and expertise to you. This won’t always be the case–I have several mentors that work in slightly different areas than I do, but ultimately they have a solid understanding of my skill sets and goals, so they’re able to help provide me solid guidance. These are the people I go to for advice when I’m struggling with things, or am ready to make a career change. Any time I’ve needed them, a conversation with a mentor helps provide me with the clarity and perspective that I’m seeking.
  2. They can help you grow your network, meaningfully. Often times people mistake networking to mean meeting as many people in a room as possible, especially at anything billed specifically as a “networking event.” This really, truly isn’t the case (especially if you’re an introvert like me). A mentor can help get you connected with people who will bring meaningful value to your career and help you learn and grow. These can be industry experts, or just people who you may also be able to provide value to. These connections can provide most valuable when you get ready to make a jump–knowing folks outside of your own work and friend circles can help you get a leg up during a job search.
  3. They can boost your confidence. Having someone who knows your skill set and personality can do wonders for your self-esteem. If you surround yourself with the right people, they’ll be able to give you constructive criticism when you need it, and praise as well. There’s nothing better than having a candid conversation with someone who values you as an individual, both personally and professionally, where you can truly explore your strengths and weaknesses and how to strategically work on them. You won’t always have this in any given work environment you find yourself in, so it’s important to make sure you have places outside of work where you can find it.
  4. They can help you determine your market value. There are few things as scary to me when I’m job searching as negotiating a salary is. No matter how skilled you are, it can be an uncomfortable discussion to have. A mentor can serve as a guide when it comes to determining what your specific skill set is worth in the current climate, as well as help you gain the confidence to insist on getting paid what you’re worth. You can use them as a sounding board for any ideas you may have outside of a regular salaried position as well, including launching your own venture or maybe doing some consulting on the side. If you’re both good at what you do, maybe you’ll even have the opportunity to go into business together!
  5. They can inspire you to pay it forward and also become a mentor. When you get to the point in your career when you’ve gained enough expertise, or have even enough knowledge to help others get their start, pay it forward! What better way to honor your mentors than to continue to pass their knowledge and expertise on to others?

Do you have any stories of your mentor making a difference in your career? How did you find your mentor, and what do you do to grow/maintain your relationship? I plan to write a post in the future on how to find a mentor, and some tips on developing/maintaining those relationships, but I welcome any thoughts/advice on your experiences here.

I hope you’re all enjoying your Labor Day weekend–let’s not forget why it exists, and to whom we owe the luxury of workers’ rights and 5 day work weeks. Cheers!

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