Whether you’re in high school, college, or already in your career, it’s important to have career mentors. Mentors are people who have more world and work experience than you. They want to, and can, help you succeed in your career.
Mentors come from all walks of life and don’t necessarily have to work in your career field or the field you aspire to be in. A high school teacher, school counselor, college professor, boss at a fast food restaurant, and even a neighbor can be a mentor. However, if you’re already in your profession, the ideal mentor, of course, would be someone who is also in your profession.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at places where you can find mentors.
*If you’re in high school, one good place to look for a mentor may be right in your school’s guidance office: I’m talking about the counselor who is assigned to you. A good counselor will be up to date on your grades and classes and will sit down to talk with you about your interests and aspirations. They will advise you on what high school classes you should take and can also help you sort out what colleges or other post-high-school programs may be best for you based on your interests. They may also advise you on career options that may be right for you down the road.
*If you’re in college, your mentor may be a professor. You may find that you get along particularly well with one of your professors, for example, and feel comfortable talking with him or her during class. That’s a sign that he or she could be a good mentor for you. One good time and place to seek advice from them is in their office during their office hours. Ask them questions about your assignments but also about your future career plans. Don’t be shy to express your aspirations and to seek guidance, especially if your professor is teaching a class that is in your college major.
*As a young professional already in the workforce, a mentor may be the person working in the cubicle right across from yours. However, they could also be your immediate supervisor or someone else with more experience than you. Be on the lookout for workplace mentors who can advise you on many aspects of your job, from who the best go-to people are at work, what is generally accepted in your office culture, how top management likes to see people perform their jobs, and how to navigate workplace politics. This information can help better position you at work. It’s not info you’ll learn by just being a good performer at work. It’s the type of info you’ll learn from mentors.
When you’re a full-fledged adult in the workplace, proactively cultivate mentors. Invite them to coffee or lunch and pay for it. This shows that you value them and their time. When you make them feel valued, they will be more likely to give you advice in the future.
As for you cash-strapped high school and college students, you may want to give your mentors a card or buy them a cup of coffee. Leave the card or coffee on their desk as a surprise.
Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. Having multiple mentors is good because their various experiences will widen your perspective. A broader perspective will help you make better decisions, whether it’s about your future career plans or the day-to-day work you’re doing in your career now.
Here’s to finding some great mentors! It’s just one more step in careering!