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Why You Should Find a Work Mentor to Boost Your Career

Not sure on your next career steps? Here’s why you should find a mentor.


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How great would it be to have someone support you in your career, helping with everything from networking to realising your potential? This is where mentoring comes in.

Careers consultant and executive coach Sarah Robinson knows first-hand the value of both being mentored and being a mentor herself. Here, she talks to Stylist about why it’s such a good idea to find a work mentor, and how to make the most of this transformative relationship. 

The value of mentoring at work

Mentoring has so many benefits, from gaining an insight into another person’s career and expanding your network to helping you set goals or make important decisions.

“Mentors often have extensive networks and can introduce you to new opportunities, potential collaborators, and influential individuals in your field,” says Robinson. “You can leverage their network to grow your own and foster connections that can benefit your career. Mentors can also be invaluable for providing insight into a career path or industry that you’re trying to break into. Having someone as a trusted cheerleader and respected professional to support you is invaluable at any stage of your working life.”

It’s a great opportunity to learn from their career journey. “Mentors have likely made their fair share of mistakes and have valuable lessons to impart,” Robinson explains. “Benefit from their wisdom by embracing their mistakes as learning opportunities, preventing you from repeating them and helping you make better, more informed decisions.” They can be a sounding board for your ideas, providing guidance and encouragement.


How to find a mentor

Firstly, think about what you want to get from mentoring. Robinson advises taking time to reflect on your career goals and areas where you need guidance or support, and then thinking about the specific qualities you want from a mentor. Do you want someone who is doing your dream job to share their story of how they got there? Or a person who can offer a unique view on your ideas?

“Reach out to your existing professional network, such as colleagues, supervisors or industry contacts to enquire if they know someone who could be a potential mentor for you,” advises Robinson. “Look within your organisation or industry, attend networking events, join professional groups or organisations, and explore online platforms geared towards mentoring connections. Online platforms, such as LinkedIn, can be valuable resources to find mentors. Use advanced search features to look for professionals in your field who have relevant experience and a willingness to mentor others.”

Should you look inside or outside of your organisation for a mentor? Both options have their advantages, says Robinson.

“Finding a mentor within your organisation allows them to have a better understanding of the company culture, dynamics, and specific challenges you may face. They can provide tailored advice and help you navigate internal politics. However, an external mentor can offer fresh perspectives, industry insights, and a broader network beyond your organisation.” 

How to approach a potential mentor

It’s normal to feel nervous about approaching a potential mentor, but they will likely be flattered you have asked.

“Approach potential mentors with a genuine interest, explaining why you believe they would be a valuable guide,” says Robinson. She recommends reaching out to them directly with a personalised message explaining your interest in their expertise and requesting their guidance. Be professional, respectful and clearly outline how you believe they can contribute to your professional growth.

Preparing for the first meeting

You have a date in the diary for a coffee with your mentor. Before you meet, take some time to think about what you want to get from mentoring so you don’t turn up not sure what to say. Robinson advises establishing clear objectives and goals you want to achieve. Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, and challenges you want to address. 


“Prepare a list of questions or discussion topics to guide the conversation and make the most of your time together,” Robinson says. “Research your mentor’s background, expertise, and accomplishments. Familiarise yourself with their career trajectory and any relevant work they have done – this shows that you value your mentor’s knowledge and have taken the time to understand their experience. Consider asking about their career journey, challenges they have faced, strategies for success, or advice on specific skills or industry trends. Come with an open mind, willingness to learn and a commitment to actively participate in the mentoring process.”

All of this means that when your mentor asks, “What would be most helpful for us to talk about today?” you should feel able to answer.

What to expect from a mentoring session

“The content and structure of mentoring sessions can vary based on goals and preferences. They generally involve open and honest discussions, sharing experiences and advice, setting goals, and tracking progress,” says Robinson.

“Mentors may provide feedback, offer guidance, suggest reading materials or resources, facilitate skill-building exercises, introduce you to their network, or provide opportunities for learning and development. Topics can range from obstacles, concerns, or specific challenges you are currently facing in your career. Be prepared to discuss these challenges with your mentor and seek their advice on how to overcome them.”

Come with an open mind and a willingness to learn

Sarah Robinson, careers consultant and executive coach

"Come with an open mind and a willingness to learn" – Sarah Robinson, careers consultant and executive coach

How to make the most of the mentoring relationship

Whether you’re having the occasional catch-up or regular sessions, there’s lots you can do to make the most of mentoring.

“Be proactive and take ownership of your own development and initiate contact with your mentor regularly,” advises Robinson. ”Be open and honest in sharing your goals, challenges, and aspirations – this will allow your mentor to provide more effective guidance. Actively listen and pay full attention to your mentor’s insights and advice and ask clarifying questions when needed.”

Be open to their ideas and engage with them. “Implement the actions and strategies discussed in your mentoring sessions and provide regular progress updates to your mentor,” Robinson says.

While mentors are happy to help, it’s important to recognise they are giving their time to support you. “Express appreciation for your mentor’s time, support, and guidance throughout the mentorship,” says Robinson.

And as valuable as mentoring is, “Understand that your mentor might not have all the answers and that the relationship is a two-way street. Don’t expect your mentor to solve all your problems but view their role as a guide and source of support.”

Having a mentor can make a real difference to your career, so have a think about what support you’d like to help you flourish. 

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Images: Getty

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This post originally appeared on Stylist and was published December 16, 2023. This article is republished here with permission.

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