Whether you are just entering the workforce out of college, switching careers, transitioning to management, or experiencing any other shift in your career, you need advice. For issues as small as determining how best to tackle a single assignment to discussing job offers to career strategizing, having a few mentors to guide and prod can make all of the difference. However, most companies lack a formal mentorship program and finding other people who are willing to put forth the effort to take on an advising role in your life are difficult to find. But the process of finding a mentor is a bit different for everyone. Some relationships happen naturally while others require persistence and patience. Regardless of how you find your mentors, there are three types that you should strive to have throughout your career.
The first type is decidedly short-term in nature and will help you with the ins and outs of getting where you want to be in a year. The perfect person for the job is someone who is currently where you want to be and who rose through the ranks from a situation similar to your own. This type is best for advice on smaller issues like project approaches and tasks you should take on to move up through the ranks. Typically, short-term mentors can be found by simply socializing with your co-workers and starting up casual conversations until you are comfortable enough to reach out with your career-related questions as they arise.
The second type of indispensable mentor is the mid-term guide: someone who has achieved the goals you wish to reach within the next five years. This person will have more experience than your one-year mentor and can offer insightful advice on how to advance within your field. This person will probably be someone at a mid- or senior level and well respected within your company. While it may be more difficult to get to know your mid-term mentor, look for an acquaintance that knows the person and set up an introduction. Keep the relationship a bit more formal by viewing your sessions more as informational interviews than as casual conversations. If he or she is willing to meet with you periodically, make sure you are always prepared with your career-path questions and will to listen to how he or she advanced.
The third type is the long-term, “career planner” mentor who is well acquainted with your industry and expertly knows the ins and outs of your trade. This is someone who you can consult on big career decisions, such as job or career change, and other major career events. This type of mentor may take the longest to find and will probably not remain constant throughout your career and may include more than one person at a time (think past college professors or a former boss). Keep this person updated on your goals, transitions, and major career steps so that he or she can help you figure out how best to get there.
While your mentors are by no means the only people you will ever approach for advice, identifying a few mentors to advise you throughout the various stages of your career will help ensure that you remain on the right path to meet your future goals.