As I sat waiting to catch a plane to my industry association’s national conference recently, I reminded my friend Jo, of our one year anniversary. It was at last year’s conference that Jo had kindly offered to mentor me during my transition from human resources to the career industry. Although I had a mentor through a university scheme, I jumped at the offer because Jo had taken a very similar path to the one I was embarking on and I figured the more access I had to skilled people on my journey, the better. As it turns out, I haven’t exactly been monogamous in my mentoring relationships, having also enjoyed a couple of other very valuable informal relationships last year.
I actually can’t imagine having got to this point without access to these wonderful people (at least without much more pain, many more mistakes and much more time). So what has come out of these relationships, you might ask? Collectively, the benefits included work experience through placements, enhancing my technical skills through supervision and case meetings, expanding my network, recommendations for opportunities and actual work, developing a referee in my new industry (which helped me obtain consulting work) and learning about setting up, and running, a small business.
Potential mentors are all around us, whether it be in the workplace or the community. Ideally the discussion of mentoring would happen when you know, or have developed a relationship with, the potential mentor because this will allow you to assess their suitability and potentially increase their comfort in taking on the role. Yesterday I had the pleasure of connecting with a very experienced professional in my industry (I sent her an email after seeing her speak at a professional development session a little while back). As we left the coffee shop, she said that she would be happy to continue to catch up, even in a mentoring capacity. Although the thought had crossed my mind, it was lovely that it happened quite organically. I will definitely be adding this person to my network of mentors which will allow me to call on others a little less and give me the opportunity to observe another style and skillset.
Whatever your stage of career, you are likely to find a good mentoring relationship valuable. It can be a great way to grow into or out of your role, transition roles or industries, expand your network, increase your organisational knowledge, or to be challenged in a supportive context. Do you have a mentor? What have been the benefits of the relationship? If you don’t, is it time to consider it?