Navigating today’s job market can be overwhelming. With many job options and career paths to choose from, there’s a lot to think about. So, where can you get the guidance you need to make informed choices about your next move? The answer may lie in finding a mentor.
Choosing a mentor is not an instant process. Finding someone willing to take an interest in your career requires time and energy, but the rewards can be worth the effort.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who takes an active interest in your career and personal development. They may be relative or friend; they may work in the field you’re interested in, or occupy a role you would like to fill one day.
Your mentor can guide you in a number of ways. They can help you understand more about your role in a future position. They can help open doors for you in their industry; or inform you about things to be aware of once working in a particular field or company (such as company politics or ways to approach certain people). And they can provide you with important feedback and constructive criticism about your work or studies.
Your relationship with a mentor is an important one and may last a number of years. For this reason, you must trust him or her, and feel comfortable enough to share important experiences and information with them.
How to choose a mentor
Ask yourself these questions to identify the right person for the job:
- Do you know someone in your desired career choice with whom you already communicate?
- Do you know someone in your community or area that you respect and aspire to be like one day?
- Do you know someone who has shown an interest in your life?
- Do you know someone willing to listen and provide feedback to you about ways to improve in your future profession?
- Do you know someone passionate about what they do and is happy to share their knowledge and expertise?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you already know someone to seek out as your mentor.
Asking someone to be your mentor
- Many people will feel privileged and grateful for the opportunity to be a mentor. Approaching someone to fill this role may be as simple as formally asking them to do so. But, for others, it may take a little bit more work.
- If you don’t already have a relationship with your future mentor (e.g. the person is someone you admire but have never connected with before), start by making the effort to introduce yourself. You could request a coffee meeting and explain that you’d like to know more about what they do and learn from their experience. Build a relationship with them until you feel comfortable enough to formally ask for their guidance. But, don’t hound the person – and respect their decision not to take on the role if they refuse. Move on and thank them for their time, as you never know when your paths could cross again.
- Sometimes, you may not even need to formally ask for someone’s mentorship – your relationship with them may evolve into a mentoring one on its own. In these cases, it’s nevertheless just as important to stick to the guidelines for a successful mentoring relationship to get the most out of your time together.
Getting the most from mentorship
One of the most important things to remember when building a mentoring relationship is that you’ll only get out what you put in. Mentoring and guidance is a two-way street! So, when working with your mentor, define upfront what you wish to achieve out of your relationship. Setting goals for your time together will ensure your relationship is productive and worthwhile – for you both.
It’s also important to adhere to the times and dates you set with your mentor. He or she will have a range of commitments, so give them enough warning to set aside time to meet with you.
Finally, communicate, communicate, communicate! Being able to talk freely about your challenges, dreams and current position, and getting feedback on these things, will help you to step out of your comfort zone and help you grow – both in your career, and as a person.
Struggling to find a mentor?
- Visit Fetola at www.fetola.co.za to apply to be a mentee (or mentor). For more information, call 021 701 7466/8096
- Big Brother Big Sister SA is a mentoring programme for young people under 18. For more info, visit www.bbbssa.org.za or call 076 174 3789
- Heartlines.org.za also offers opportunities to those interested in volunteering as mentors. For more information visit at www.forgood.co.za.
- SEDA (The Small Enterprise Development Agency) offers business development and support services for small enterprises for more information, visit www.seda.org.za
by Simone Lingenfelder
Simone Lingenfelder is a youth life coach. To contact her, visit www.lighthousecoaching.co.za
‘I think kids should have a mentor and a role model, but that they shouldn’t take one person’s opinion to be what we call final assessment or judgment about how life is supposed to be.’ – Sean Paul