• Lindi Engelbrecht

Mentorship the Key To Career Success

Mentorship your secret weapon to success

Just a short 3 months away from a new year. I’ve noticed many people in my network starting to set goals for their professional careers. For some, scoring a position with their dream company, being offered a promotion to a higher performing position or starting their first corporate job.

In an ever-growing competitive world of work, a combination of emotional intelligence, refined skillset and a great network will grant you the growth trajectory you’re aiming for in your career. If you speak with any accomplished (senior) professional, the last piece of that puzzle is attributed to having a mentor. In your path to success, it’s important to have guidance and positive encouragement from someone who has been there done that.

A successful mentoring relationship involves the same principles as all healthy relationships, including mutual respect, openness, responsibility, trust, appreciation, and mutual benefit. A good mentor does not dictate the specific career path that you must follow, but instead listens to you regarding your goals and interests; offers feedback, perspective and helpful ideas for you to consider; and provides encouragement and support as you discover and navigate your own career and life path.

Throughout your career, there will be lots of people you turn to for help and advice. But, by being strategic and identifying a few key mentors to be your “board of advisors,” you’ll make sure that their advice is always steering you in the right direction.

Your "Board of Advisors" 

Famous Mentors & Mentees

Mentor #1: One Year from Now

Think about your short-term career goals: Where do you want to be at, this time next year? (We have created a helpful worksheet : Annual Career Assessment, that can be useful. Download here) Look for a person who’s currently there, and seek them out to be your "where I want to be in a year" mentor. Ideally, this person is someone who’s been in your shoes and can easily relate to your current experiences.

This type of mentor is great when you need advice on the little things, like the best way to approach a project. If they work within your company, they can give you the insider scoop on who you should know and what specific tasks you should take on to get to the next level.

If you work for a large organization, you can usually find this kind of mentor just by socializing and getting to know people in your office. If you work for a smaller company or department, it can be tougher, but don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your network or at industry events—most people are happy to help out, we need to just ask.

Start the relationship by taking them out to coffee and asking about their current job, how they got to where they are, and if they have any advice for you. After that, keep it casual: be comfortable enough to reach out to them again as questions or issues come up.

Mentor #2: Your Five-Year Guide

While a one-year mentor is great for the day-to-day stuff, it’s also good to have a "where I want to be in five years" mentor. With a bit more experience under their belt, this person can offer you advice on advancing within your company or field, including the short-term goals you should be setting in order to get there.

When you’re seeking out this person, look at mid- to senior-level managers who are well-known and respected within your field or company. If you have an idea of someone who’s in your dream role, but don’t know them personally, find a colleague who does and ask for an introduction. 

This relationship needs to be kept professional. Treat this meeting or coffee session more like an informational interview. Have some questions ready. Then, see if they’d be willing to meet with you every quarter or so to discuss your career path.

Mentor #3: Your Strategic Advisor

Lastly, you should have a "what do I want to do with my career" advisor. This person may not be in your company, but should work (or have worked) in your industry. This mentor would be someone who knows your niched industry or field and can consult you on big events and decisions, like changing jobs, working abroad, or exploring other career opportunities.

This type of mentor may take longer to find and will likely change throughout your career. This relationship will also probably grow organically—when you’re first starting out, it may be your favorite professor from university or technikon or, later down the road, it may be a former colleague or boss. You can definitely have more than one of these types of mentors, too.

While it’s good to check in with this mentor regularly, it’s most important to consult them during times of transition. Share with them your goals and aspirations, ask them for help in mapping your career path, and seek their advice on any major steps you’re considering.

Mentor #4: Technology

In our ever evolving digital world, who your mentors are aren’t limited to who you know. They’re not just your alumni, your professor, your parent’s friends, your friends’ friends, your first-degree/second-degree connections. Your mentors can now be perfect strangers, who care about the things you care about— who are part of your TRIBE. Mentoring platforms will allow you to connect with mentors via video, by which you are paired with one exclusive mentor over a 6-month period to get the information, advice and guidance you need, or alternatively allows you to connect with multiple mentors on a one-off basis for careers-related advice.

Great mentors can have an enormous impact and can also do wonders for individuals wanting to further their careers. With their wealth of experience and knowledge they can help you cross hurdles and give direction to help make the right decisions.