Nearly all highly successful professionals say they couldn't have gotten where they are now without having a mentor in the early stages of their career. Developing a relationship with a more experienced colleague can smooth your path toward your career goals in many ways. Here are just a few of them:
1. Clues you in to the office culture. Someone who's worked there a while can tell you who really gets things done, who's in which clique, and what unwritten rules you'll be expected to play by. Insights into personalities can help you deal strategically with the individuals who will influence your job success.
2. Helps you be heard. Newbies often are afraid to speak up, or don't know how to make their point without making enemies. Plus, the mentor's position within the company can give you a powerful supporting voice if you need one.
3. Helps you listen. Being able to accept feedback, and act on it, will be crucial to your career (and personal) growth; yet it's one of the most difficult things to learn. A mentor provides helpful critiques, advice on how to respond to your manager, and a safe sounding board for you to practice on.
4. Guides your career plans. Beginners usually have a rather vague vision of where they ultimately want to be, and even less idea of how to get there. A mentor helps you set actionable goals and steps for achieving them.
5. Improves your performance. A mentor can boost your daily productivity by showing you how to do specific tasks as well as acquire new skills and knowledge.
6. Links you to a ready-made network. When you're ready for the next stage of your career, you can access the mentor's professional contacts for news of unadvertised job openings, backed by a great referral from the mentor.
A mentor relationship is not about simply riding on a more senior person's coattails. It's about growing your own abilities and being enabled to make your career dreams come true.