Open the door to success with career mentoring, don’t break it down

It’s often claimed that behind every flourishing business enterprise or successful career lies a mentoring relationship, but is that really the case? Are mentors really that instrumental?  Well, mentors can certainly help entrepreneurs to realise their potential and are capable of opening doors for those mentees who want to advance in their careers. Yet there are others who succeed alone through sheer will and determination: they don’t so much open the doors themselves, as break them down. So, if you can succeed as a self-starter, then why would you need a mentor? Well, there are lots of reasons. Mentoring is one of the most effective tools for career advancement. An effective mentoring system allows a mentee to utilise the full range of skill sets of those around them, it can help them get their feet under an industry stakeholder’s table, connect them with those that matter, and advise and guide them during the turbulent times as you strive towards success in their chosen field. Even if you feel you are a self-starter with all the enthusiasm and drive needed to make it to the top, there’s still definitely room for a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship. Nobody, no matter how focused, can possibly ever know all the answers. So, why try to break down doors when someone can open them for you?

How can you spot a good mentor and know whether they’ll be right for you?

Mentors are everywhere and we come across them every day of our lives. We’re involved in the mentor/mentee relationship in one form or other from the day we’re born: we’re mentored and advised by our families, at school or college, at work and even by our friends on occasion. It’s just that we tend not to spot it because it’s so close to us. Mentors don’t need to be traditional work-based or industry-based professionals. All they need to be able to do is be capable of advising and suggesting ways to achieve goals or overcome difficulties.

Mentors need to be able to build a relationship with their mentee which is productive and mutually beneficial. Above all else they need to be able to listen. Every person’s problems and difficulties will be different. A good mentor should approach each new relationship with an open mind and never pre-judge situations based on past experience.

How do you know if you’ve found the right one? Well, the short answer is that you’ll never know until you try. It could be that the mentor you choose isn’t right for you, or perhaps that the two of you don’t gel in quite the way you’d both prefer. If there isn’t trust and respect, then it will never work. If that happens then mentees should broaden their search and look for alternative mentors. There’s actually nothing to say you only need to have one relationship. Careers and businesses can be complicated; a mentor may know the media world inside out, but that won’t necessarily make them the go-to person when it comes to the advantages and benefits of setting up an e-commerce website.  Why not look to different mentors for their different specialities?

How to utilise the skills of a mentor properly

Any mentoring relationship will only work if there are clear goals and expectations from the outset. This requires clear and concise communication. Mentees can’t expect mentors to be able to answer everything, particularly if they don’t even know what the questions are. Mentees need to be able to tell the mentor precisely what they’re looking for, be that acclimatising to a new job, career advancement, or developing an idea into what they hope will become a sustainable business. Once a mentor knows those needs, he or she will be able to guide and advise accordingly. If there are questions and issues that are not within the mentor’s comfort zone, then either they or the mentee can seek additional help from a third party.

It’s important to remember that the relationship also needs to be mutual. There needs to be something in it for the mentor too. Whatever structure or schedule is agreed upon has to work for both parties. If the mentor and mentee enter the relationship with a clear indication of what’s expected from both of them, then it will stand a much better chance of succeeding.

One thought on “Open the door to success with career mentoring, don’t break it down

  1. VERY INTERESTING! I am a Senior Developer, having worekd with SQL Server since version 6.5 (mid-90 s). I am currently working projects that are primarily SQL Server 2005 but have worekd with 2008 (and Oracle). I am interested in that there are likely a few levels of mentoring there are those who certainly know more and/or less than I do about SQL Server. I d be interested in being both a mentor and mentored and was unsure if this was going to be supported? I also understand that this is for SQL Server professionals, but if you are taking down future requests I am starting to learn Windows Phone Development (using VS 2010 Silverlight and XNA) and would definitely appreciate mentoring in that area. Good luck with this project

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