Why You Need a Mentor
A key piece of advice heard from professionals across every area - Find a mentor.
Despite this, an American study found only 37% of people actually have one. Easier said than done, perhaps? Here’s four reasons why it’s worth the effort, and how you can find one.
Mentors have experience, wisdom and hindsight. As well as advising you in the moment, a mentor can provide a sense of direction for you, following graduation. The future can be daunting. A mentor can help you to set goals, hold you accountable for progress and help you build a roadmap to get you where you want to be.
A major benefit of a mentor, particularly for students, is access to a professional network. If your mentor doesn’t have the answer, they probably know someone who does. When applying for jobs or further study, knowing people who are already in the role that you want will give you an insight into what your superiors are looking for as well as internal priorities and jargon, all helping you get a foot in the door.
Mentors can also offer an opportunity for honest self-reflection. Life can be fast-paced, especially our work. A mentor can help you appreciate how far you’ve come, as well as challenging you to address any areas you may have been neglecting. This will prove beneficial for both your personal and professional development. Having a mentor has also been linked to improved emotional health and wellbeing.
It’s important to know that mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship. You are not a burden to your mentor. On the contrary, Nicola Turner and Arif Ahmed, Partners at PwC, discussed how rewarding they found the experience in helping them ‘keep up with the times’. Studies suggest that mentoring also improves job satisfaction and professional performance amongst mentors.
When looking for mentorship, you should set some criteria. Broadly speaking, you are looking for someone who you see some of yourself in, who is also reasonably ahead of you. This could be someone of the same minority as you, or simply someone in your dream role. Research has also shown that being of the same gender increases the chances of successful mentoring.
In an ideal world, a mentoring relationship would come together organically. Such mentorships tend to be very successful and take the least effort to establish. It might be your dissertation supervisor, manager or an entrepreneurial friend, but consider who is currently available to you. An existing contact is much more likely to say yes.
If your dream mentor isn’t known to you yet, how could you gain proximity to them? There are active communities of black girls in tech, finance guys and British farmers on Twitter who you can learn from and interact with on a daily basis. Where is your niche?
You can find a mentor through schemes offered at university. Multiple mentoring programs pass through my inbox annually, so be sure to look out for them. Schemes are also available outside of university, through professional bodies and local councils, such as MyMentor in London. There are countless other organisations looking to connect mentees and mentors, such as Graduate Mentor, Financial Alliance for Women or Fintech Alliance.
Finally, the simplest way is to ask. If you have someone in mind, find their email address and get in touch. Those in high places, particularly those who are highly visible, may receive numerous mentorship requests. Put some thought into your approach. Say what you admire about their work and why it’s relevant to you. Outline your goals and let them know where you need their input. If the person is very busy, or you’re unsure as to how it might go, ask for one meeting initially and take it from there.
“The best part of my mentoring relationship is the fact that I have gained a trustworthy supporter, a confidant, an advocate and an ally.” - Ronice Awudu, student at Yale University.
Good luck in your search!