Having a Mentor for Career Growth

Having a Mentor for Career Growth

 26 Feb 2021

Having a mentor can be invaluable for your growth, both professionally and personally. In our busy lives it can be helpful to have an anchor, someone whose expertise you can call upon when you’re unsure of your direction.

But what is a mentor? Isn't it the same as a coach? 


Mentor versus Coach

These terms are often used interchangeably but are in fact quite different.

A mentor is someone with whom you develop a longer term, supportive relationship. This is typically an informal arrangement and should be based on mutual trust and respect.

A coach on the other hand tends to use a more formal, structured approach for a specific amount of time to focus on a specific outcome.


How do I choose my mentor?

First and foremost, it should be someone you admire professionally and get along with. They don’t necessarily have to come from the same department as you; mentoring can be as effective if your mentor comes from a different function. However, they should ideally be relatable to and understand your part of the business and the sorts of challenges you might face.

If you are unsure who might be the best person to support you as a mentor, ask around. Seek guidance from your peer group, your management or HR. It should be someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing your challenges and whose suggestions you will respond to.


What is their role? What do we talk about?

The mentor’s primary role is to offer you feedback and advice. You set the agenda which will be based on your own development goals. The mentor is there for you to ask questions and tap into their expertise and experience.

The mentor is also there to motivate you and build your confidence so that you evolve into a more accomplished version of yourself, in line with what you are seeking to achieve. They can discuss with you what is working and what isn’t and then share their experience and ideas on how you can overcome any obstacles and challenges. They can inspire you to see what is possible to achieve in your career.

Be clear with them about the help and guidance you are looking for and relate that to how it fits in with your career goals. The clearer your agenda, the more constructive the relationship can be.


How often should we meet?

This is really up to you. It may be that your meetings are more frequent in the beginning as you get to know each other and build the relationship. Your agenda will inevitably change over time as you begin to accomplish the things you set out to do.

Perhaps you settle on meeting three or four times a year away from the office to discuss progress, things that are working brilliantly and things that could have gone better and realign your strategies accordingly.

There is no right answer to this, but there is a time investment from both sides that will need to be taken into consideration with other demands. It is important to set ground rules from the beginning as to what each party can contribute in terms of time, both for meeting up and other forms of communication.


Being part of a mentoring arrangement can be a marvellous way to enhance your career in ways you could not have imagined or achieved on your own. Go into it with an open mind and see where it takes you! 


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