Guest Post by Susan Vitale (author bio is available at the end of the article):
We all need friends in our lives – companions to share our thoughts with, trust with our secrets, and depend on when times are tough. But when it comes to the workplace, many women make the mistake of only focusing on the need to cultivate “best friend” relationships at work. In reality, having friends at work is great, and of course you want to get along with your colleagues, but don’t forget about finding another important ally within the walls of your workplace, a great mentor.
I tell women who are just starting out to choose someone that you respect and trust. Work friends and confidants are great to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, and help motivate each other, but a mentor, on the other hand, will provide you with an honest assessment of your skills, your performance, and the direction you are or should be going in. We all need a pat on the back every now and then, but more importantly, you need someone who can shoot straight with you and constructively criticize.
The right mentor can be the key to unlocking your full potential, provide insight into your unique talents, and find ways to leverage them to advance your career. A good mentor can truly change your life, open up new opportunities, and give you a fresh perspective.
Who Makes a Good Mentor?
So what should you look for in a mentor relationship? The most important qualities are integrity and honesty. You should choose someone you respect professionally – someone whose opinion you truly value. As women, we are often socialized to create harmony by glossing over unpleasantness. That quality may make for a less stressful shared shopping experience, but it’s useless in a mentor.
Make sure you select a mentor you can trust to tell it like it is. You need a mentor who will challenge you, because that’s how you grow professionally. That doesn’t necessarily mean your mentor will always be right, but the right relationship will help you identify your passions, areas for development and opportunities around the corner.
How to Find a Mentor
Sometimes you get lucky and find a job where your boss makes an excellent mentor. This can be a positive situation since your boss is already expected to provide guidance and help you grow professionally – but someone you work for may not give you the same level of perspective about the organization you are both employed by. Mentors can also enter our lives in unexpected ways, so it pays to keep your eyes and mind open.
You can find a mentor in another department or another company or professional organization. It’s also possible to find a great mentor even before you land a job post-college: a friend who is a few years ahead of you, or a great professor, perhaps – the important thing is that you form a relationship with a mentor who will challenge you and help you grow professionally. Mentor relationships can last throughout your career – even if you and your mentor eventually work for different companies or in different industries.
How a Mentor Can Help You
It’s no exaggeration to say that a good mentor can make all the difference in your career. You may have the talent and ambition, but the right mentor helps you channel it in a positive direction. Once you find your mentor, talk to her or him about your career goals. Bounce ideas off your mentor, and describe your workplace challenges so he or she can suggest new solutions and strategies.
If you’ve set milestones for your career (and you should), review them with your mentor periodically and get their ideas on how you could be more effective and productive. Most of all, make sure your mentor challenges you – and reminds you to challenge yourself.
About the Author
Susan Vitale is Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS, a SaaS talent acquisition platform. iCIMS provides the industry’s premier talent acquisition solution, enabling HR professionals to manage their organization’s entire talent lifecycle from sourcing to recruitment marketing to applicant tracking to onboarding, all within a single web-based application. Susan directs iCIMS’ go-to-market and portfolio strategy to drive corporate growth and product adoption.