If you get the chance to work with a mentor, here's why you should take it!

Let's face it,  there's a world of difference between a new starter and a seasoned professional. 

Yes, as you move through your career, you learn the tricks of the trade and bolster your expertise. The lessons you pick up along the way can be seemingly intangible, but mean that you're faster, more productive, and more confident than you were on your first day at work. 

But what if you could skip ahead and get to the good part? What if you could work alongside a senior professional who will give you the inside scoop? That's where mentorship comes into the picture. Partnering up with someone who is an expert in your field could be the secret to your success. In the following guide, we'll take a look at what a mentor is and why mentorship is important when it comes to your ongoing career development. 

What is a mentor? 

A mentor is a professional you can trust to guide you through your work life. Often enough, this will be an individual in the same career, who agrees to support you and help you to develop. You may have an official mentorship with someone at work if, for example, it's part of a company-wide scheme. Or you may have an unofficial mentor that you find yourself. 

How, when, and where you meet your mentor is entirely up to you both. You may have dedicated meetings with them on a weekly or monthly basis. You might choose to speak to them via a video call or phone call. You could even instant message or email them. 

When you're setting up this type of agreement, make sure you're both on the same page. Understanding how you'll communicate will be a huge help here. After all, you both need to know what the expectations are of your mentorship before you get started. 

The aim of a mentor is to help you to expand professionally. That means looking at the areas in which you may be lacking skills or expertise and filling in the gaps. Your mentor will give you the guidance you've been looking for. However, it doesn't start and end there. As we'll cover shortly, there are many other reasons as to why mentorship is important. 

Why is mentorship important? 

There's a reason that mentoring is so popular. 76% of UK companies say that mentoring is one of the keys to business growth, according to government research released on National Mentoring Day. As if that wasn't enough, 60% of companies said that the approach helped them to boost their business strategy. Put simply, mentoring helps companies to grow. 

But what does mentoring do for you as an employer? The truth is that this is a win-win situation. If you're looking for a way to get ahead and develop your career, you might find that mentorship is the way to go. Working alongside someone who has been there, done it, and got the t-shirt means that you have an advantage over the competition. You can learn directly from someone who knows the inner workings of the industry and can share valuable insights with you. Should you get the chance to have a mentor, you may want to take it. 

Top 12 reasons to get a professional mentor

Thinking of working with a mentor? There are many reasons why mentorship is important in the workplace. If you're unsure about whether this pathway is right for you, you've come to the right place. In this section, we'll take a look at 12 great benefits to consider: 

1. Boost your professional development 

Do you have a career plan in place? If you're unsure where your professional life is going, it could be time to reevaluate things. One of  the main reasons why mentorship is important is that it can allow you to do just that. Your mentor will help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. By talking things through with them, you can identify the areas which you need to strengthen and then look for opportunities to do that. Sometimes, it takes working with an outsider to clearly see what it is that you need to get ahead professionally. 

2. Lower your risk of burnout 

Burnout happens when your workload triggers high levels of stress. According to Mayo Clinic, it can leave you feeling unable to cope, drained, and unable to sleep. You may experience feelings of anger, irritation, sadness, or even numbness. If undealt with, this can lead to higher chances of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Luckily, finding a mentor could be a smart way to avoid this problem. Being involved in a mentorship scheme can lower your chance of experiencing burnout, according to research published in the Journal of Interprofessional Education and Practice. The study authors concluded that businesses should introduce mentorship schemes to “improve overall work satisfaction and professional fulfilment” of both mentees and mentors.  

3. Unleash your innovative side 

Are you a creative person? Do you look for unique solutions to problems? If the answer to these two questions is a firm no, perhaps getting a mentor would change the narrative. Research published in Current Psychology shows that mentorships can lead to higher levels of innovation by mentees. That may mean that working with a mentor gives you the confidence to put forward your own ideas and foster a more creative outlook at work. 

4. Set reasonable goals 

Goals matter more than you might imagine in the workplace. Often enough, we can lose sight of what we want out of our jobs. If you just get in, do the work, and get out each day, not much will change. It's only when you set intentional goals that you can start boosting your professional future. Having a mentor to bounce ideas off could help you along the way. 

In formal mentorship arrangements, the mentor will dedicate a large amount of time to goal setting. They may speak to you about what you want in the future and look at ways to break that down for you. Mapping out these goals can help you to get where you want to be. 

5. Be held accountable for things 

It's all very well setting goals - you may have even done it yourself in the past - but who is making sure you adhere to them? Mentors often act as accountability partners. That literally means that they hold you accountable for the targets that you set out. You may find that your mentor asks you how far along you are or checks in for regular progress updates. Knowing that you have to report back to someone can do wonders for your motivation levels.  

6. Increase leadership skills

Leadership is a vital skill. However, it can be hard to learn when you're first starting out and you haven't witnessed it firsthand. When you work with a mentor, they will guide the way for you. In turn, that means that you learn how a leader should act in a professional setting. You can then take the lessons that you learn and apply them directly to your own work. If you're lucky enough to work with a talented mentor, acquiring leadership skills should be a cinch.

7. Get more confidence 

Sometimes, it's not that you are lacking in skills and experience. It's about confidence. You're not alone when it comes to this problem. In fact, nearly half of all British employees struggle with their confidence in the workplace. Working alongside someone who has experience in the field and can give you advice is one way to solve that problem. When we talk about the main reasons why mentorship is important, confidence will always come up. When you have someone to support your growth, it makes a world of difference here.

8. Expand your professional network 

Working closely with a mentor is also an easy way to network. Chances are, your mentor will be a good few ranks above you on the career ladder. Most of the time, you would not get the opportunity to meet and get to know someone of that level in your career. However, when you choose to work with a mentor, you can add them to your ever-expanding network too. 

Their high level also means that they will be in the know when it comes to new opportunities, vacancies, and even schemes. You may find that your mentor will help you to open doors that were previously closed to you. When you work alongside them, they will get to know what your professional strengths are. So, when a job comes up for which you might just be the perfect fit, they'll be the first to mention your name and let you know about it. 

9. Become more knowledgeable 

Is learning new things on your to-do list? If you want to become more knowledgeable in your field, working with a mentor is a quick way to do so. Mentors typically have knowledge and experience that mentees lack. So, it stands to reason that the central part of the mentoring experience is an exchange of this knowledge. That may be through showing you how to do certain things, talking you through processes, or directing you to resources. 

10. Develop your existing skill-set

Similarly, you may find that you learn new skills from your mentor. In some cases, mentees and mentors are paired for this exact reason. Should the mentor know how to do something particular, you can learn this directly from them in a one-on-one environment. The talents that you hone by working with them could help you to quickly climb the career ladder. 

11. Have someone to speak to 

Who do you speak to when it comes to work? Your boss? Your partner? Your mentor is the ideal person to lend an ear when something is troubling you. This person is neutral and not invested in whatever your problem is. For that reason, they can help you when it comes to overcoming it or, in some cases, simply speaking about it with someone you trust. That may involve engaging in some reflective listening or working through the workplace issue together. Whenever you need to talk things through, you can rely on them to hear you out.  

12. Get some constructive feedback 

While your manager will give you constructive feedback, your mentor can also take on this role. If you want to develop your skills and expertise, you need to be open to criticism. With that in mind, when you work with a mentor, you will have the opportunity to get it in a safe environment. Your mentor will be able to evaluate your current standing and give you handy advice that you can use to improve. Learning to take this information on board (and not take it too personally) could help you to excel in every aspect of your working life. 

The takeaway 

Could a mentor help you further your career? In this guide, we've taken a look at some of the key benefits of mentorship and why you should consider it. Whether you're new to your field or simply want to gain more insights from an expert, this could be the answer you need. Ask your manager about mentoring schemes or find a mentor on your own terms now. 

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