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Why You Need a Mentor



A young plumber gets advice from his more experienced mentor.

Image Source / Digital Vision / Getty Images

What is a mentor? The word can be traced back to Homer's Odyssey as the name of a character who gave advice. It is now commonly used to describe an experienced person who advises a less experienced colleague. The novice is often referred to as a protégé and sometimes a mentee. A mentor possesses the wisdom only experience can provide, while the protégé is someone who is in the early stages of his or her career. While the protégé seems to reap the benefits of this relationship, it actually benefits both partners. The protégé receives guidance and helpful advice and invitations to industry events and introductions to higher-ups may be forthcoming. The mentor benefits from the opportunity to strengthen his or her leadership skills.

How Can a Mentor Help You?

He or she can:
  • help you deal with a problem with a co-worker or your boss;

  • alert you to new opportunities;

  • help you find out how to learn new skills that are needed for your job;

  • advise you about whether to accept a job offer

How to Establish a Mentor-Protégé Relationship

These relationships may come about formally or informally. Some companies have formal mentoring programs. When a new employee begins work, he or she is matched up with someone who can provide guidance. This may range from the older employee showing the newer one around and acquainting him or her with the company or organization to a more long-term plan that can last for years. More often, informal relationships come about when a seasoned worker takes a new one under his or her wing. Some professional organizations also have mentoring programs available. If you are entering a new field, it could be worth becoming a member of a professional group if it offers such a program.

Tips for Finding and Working With a Mentor

  • Choose a mentor whose goals are similar to your own.

  • Find someone who is in the same career as you.

  • Your mentor should have time to give to this relationship.

  • Take the initial step in establishing contact with a potential mentor since you are the one who will benefit the most from the relationship.

  • You must find the time to participate in the relationship with your mentor.

Eventually you will be in a position to give advice to someone who is just starting out. Honor your mentor by paying it forward and doing for another person what he or she did for you.

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