Throughout my career, mentors have played a central role in my development. As a result, I’m a big advocate of my clients seeking out a mentor who can support them on their personal development journey. I often ask my clients this very question…have you considered a career mentor? This article isn’t a definitive list of the benefits of mentoring, more of a collection of thoughts from personal experience and the positive impact they’ve had on me. I will focus on workplace mentors at this stage, you can of course seek mentors far and wide but it’s easiest to begin you search within your organisation at a first step.
The power of independence
The true power of a strong mentor relationship is the ability to seek independent advice. Having someone you can call upon when making a critical career decision can be enormously powerful and will give you confidence that you’ve performed the right level of due diligence. However, this does highlight a common mistake whereby an individual seeks a mentor that is too close to their line of management. By seeking a truly independent mentor, you benefit from their advice without the fear of conflict or bias. For example, if you are deciding between two job opportunities and one role is within your mentor’s team then it’s going to be hard for your mentor to be truly objective. Always look for independence to ensure you create strong foundations for your mentoring relationship.
The importance of challenge
To maximise the benefit from your mentor relationship, you should look for an individual who will provide you with constructive challenge. There’s no point in working with someone who only gives you praise! Working with someone who will objectively challenge your thinking will ensure you properly analyse key decisions and make you aware of any blind spots. Again, the idea of independence plays a key role here, if you remove bias and conflict, then the challenge will be even more powerful.
Benefitting from their experience
One of the main drivers when highlighting a potential mentor is to benefit from the lessons learned on their career journey and hopefully replicate the success they have achieved. I have no doubt a mentor will be able to name numerous pitfalls they’ve faced or witnesses during their career that you won’t have thought of. That’s not to say you have to replicate every single move they made or decision they took but it helps to have the awareness so you can factor in the information to your own career journey.
Tapping into their network
Working with someone who is more senior and experienced then yourself will no doubt mean they hold a wider personal network than your own. Whether you are looking to strengthen your experience, target your next role or simply looking to build forward momentum, they will know someone who can help you. As you develop your mentor relationship and share your ambitions, this will generate opportunities to understand how your mentor could introduce you to the right people who can help you on your development journey.
A tailormade stakeholder
A natural by-product of building a strong relationship with a mentor is they become a stakeholder and potential cheerleader for you. Having this senior support within your organisation can be extremely powerful and very important as you progress upwards. It never harms having someone in the background singing your praises!
A source of support and encouragement
Building a close working relationship with your mentor will mean they can objectively track your development progress. They will provide you with support and encouragement at the right time to help your growth. Again, this circles back to the independence point, having someone to challenge you in the right way at the right time will only serve to support you in a positive way.
In summary the benefits of a mentor relationship can be extremely powerful as long as you select the right person. Always remember the importance of independence when considering potentials candidates. So take your time, do your research and be clear in your objectives for the relationship. Best of luck!
About the author
Tomas Mason is an experienced Executive Coach specialising in leadership development. He trained with Henley Business School and is accredited by the EMCC. Prior to coaching Tom was a senior leader in the financial services sector.