The importance of mentorship can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Throughout the ages, younger generations have successfully leveraged the knowledge possessed by more experienced, and often-times older, influencers. If you think about your personal experiences growing up, you may be able to quickly identify people that have helped you become the person you are today. Whether it was a teacher or coach, your parents or an older sibling, each played a vital role in your early development.
As the progression into adulthood occurs the perceived need for mentors naturally lessens. Of course, the keyword here is “perceived.” This is an important distinction. Millennials entering the workforce need strong mentors. Aligning oneself with a key influencer, or set of influencers, can mean the difference between a smooth career growth and one that is filled with disappointment and frustration.
Today’s workforce is complex and dynamic. For the twenty-something stepping into his or her first professional role, the workplace can be overwhelming and downright terrifying. Understanding the benefits of a strong mentor relationship going into this situation is often enough to minimize the sting and allow for a smooth transition.
Mentors provide guidance on the best way to apply formal education into the workplace setting. While most college graduates have work experience, there is a distinct difference between a part-time job and a career. Finding a mentor who understands your background and career aspirations will allow you to develop a targeted path toward your career goal. A good mentor will help you understand where to best focus your efforts to ensure you properly align your strengths with the needs of the organization.
A key challenge for most entry-level employees is how to work with cross-functional teams. Although this is something that universities place more focus on, the truth is, each organization structure is different. A mentor will help you understanding which functional groups (sales, marketing, engineering, etc.) hold the most power in the organization. Through a solid mentor relationship, you will learn how to leverage your skills in a way that increases your value across all the teams you encounter as part of your daily routine.
Mentors play a vital role in cultural assimilation. They help their mentees socialize in a manner that is in line with the overall corporate culture. Whether through formal written communications or interactions throughout the office, your mentor can quickly guide you on the right path. Of course, these lessons can be learned through trial and error, however the damage done in the process can often be irreversible.
A mentor is not a manager. A manager typically will provide a set of tasks that need to be completed and expect those tasks to be performed within a pre-defined set of boundaries. A strong mentor does just the opposite. Rather than dictate what needs to be done, the mentor will act as a guide toward the end goal. The mentee will ultimately make the decision on how a challenge is approached, but your mentor will simply provide feedback on whether you're on the right track based on a variety of organizational factors that are firmly understood.
Mentors will help move you out of your comfort level. If you hate public speaking but talking in front of a crowd will be part of the job you strive toward, then find a mentor who can challenge you and bring you out of your shell. Effective mentors constantly challenge and support their mentees, building their skills and knowledge to be successful in the workforce.
The next article will discuss the characteristics of an effective mentor.