In my work with leaders at all stages of their careers, I am often asked about mentoring.  As I reflect on those conversations, there are four questions that I am regularly asked:

  1. Why would I need a mentor?
  2. How can I find a mentor?
  3. What exactly is the mentor's role? What is mine?
  4. How do I get the best from my mentor relationship?

This series of blog posts will answer each of these questions. For now, let’s focus on question #1.

Why would I need a mentor?

Wherever you are in your career, my guess is that your success has been influenced by the advice and guidance of others—whether it was direct feedback from a boss, observing colleagues, lessons learned from a teacher at school or university, advice from your parents, the list goes on.  All of us seek the guidance from those we trust and respect, and these relationships are invaluable in helping us to successfully navigate the world of work. 

Mentoring is a process by which you benefit from the experience and knowledge of someone in support of your own goals. Choosing to work with a mentor is a more formal approach to your development. 

A mentor acts as a sounding board. They provide a perspective that can help you overcome roadblocks to success. They can suggest options or new courses of action that you may not otherwise have considered. 

There are easily identifiable transitions when you might consider working with a mentor. Maybe you have been:

  • promoted to a new leadership level or are looking to move to a new level
  • transitioned into a new role or company
  • challenged with delivering a business-critical, high-stakes goal that you cannot afford to fail
  • moved to a new location, city, state, or country
  • tackled a new project that you are not the subject matter expert
  • provided with feedback that you need to learn or develop a particular skill or competency
  • gone through a major organizational change or reorganization.

Think back through your career: Is there a time when have you could have benefited—or did benefit—from working with a mentor?

And remember, a mentor relationship is an opportunity to learn and grow—for both you and your mentor.