Resource Centre Career Development How To Find The Right Career Mentor

How To Find The Right Career Mentor

A career mentor is an individual who holds your hand through the different stages of your career growth. This is someone who has more experience, knowledge or skills and is willing to guide another individual into the modalities of how things are done and how to grow their career. The value of career mentors A […]

A career mentor is an individual who holds your hand through the different stages of your career growth. This is someone who has more experience, knowledge or skills and is willing to guide another individual into the modalities of how things are done and how to grow their career.

The value of career mentors

A Mentor Helps You Create A Strong CV

Your mentor most likely has wealth of experience in writing resumes. They have done it throughout their career and hence understand the intricacies of what is needed and what is irrelevant. A mentor will advise on what language to use on your CV, how to format it, how to optimize it according to the role you are applying for.

A Mentor Can Offer Guidance on A Project

Mentors offer valuable insights and input in projects and tasks assigned to you. Sometimes you may wonder what to do to ensure maximum success in a project. Talking to someone who has done a similar project before can be quite the

Mentors offer valuable insights and input in projects and tasks assigned to you. Sometimes you may wonder what to do to ensure maximum success in a project. Talking to someone who has done a similar project before can be quite the

Mentors offer valuable insights and input in projects and tasks assigned to you. Sometimes you may wonder what to do to ensure maximum success in a project. Talking to someone who has done a similar project before can be quite the eye-opener. They will help you see why doing it a certain way is better and guarantees more success. This way, you get to learn from their mistakes and improve on what they already succeeded in.

Helps You Identify Resources and Better Ways of Managing Tasks

Your mentor has tried and tested various ways of doing things. You do not have to learn the hard way. With a mentor, you have a springboard to start on and get propelled to further growth and career development.

Helps You to Professionally Brand Yourself   

A career mentor will help you identify your strengths and opportunities in a particular role and advice on how well to position yourself for growth in such a role or another, depending on your skill set, talents and passion. At the same time, a mentor provides access to their already established professional network. They can point you in the direction of someone in their connection pool, who can help you work on a particular skill. This way, your professional brand is created and continually polished.

The following are applicable tips that could help you find a career mentor.

  1. Identify What You Want

Identify what you want to achieve. You do not expect to approach someone with a vague plan and hope they will be willing to take time out of their busy schedule to help you. Ideally, mentors are people who have succeeded in what they do. This means they are extremely busy people and will only give time to things that are likely to succeed. Mentees who seem to understand what they want are more attractive to mentors than those who still need time to figure themselves out. However, it is possible, especially for entry-level individuals to be confused and to not know what they want yet. If that is the case, approach a mentor with the several possibilities you would like to venture in for their guidance and advice.

  1. Identify Your Potential Mentor

This embroils clarifying one’s career needs and refining them to suit one’s goals. The SMART approach may be a suitable tool to use. Clarifying specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals may be the first mile of a thousand others. The greatest achievers in life have made remarkable strides in their careers after someone held their hands. This means that your mentor should be someone you want to be ‘when you grow up’.

They should inspire you, challenge you, stimulate your creativity and push you to tap your fullest potential. Identify what they are good in and what you would like to get from the relationship. It is wise to note that you can have different mentors at the same time. For instance; you can have a career mentor, a spiritual sensei, a life-skills coach, etc. Just ensure that all these interactions are well within what you can manage and set a reasonable time for. It beats logic to overwhelm yourself with coaches whose wisdom nuggets you cannot sufficiently apply in your life.

  1. Reaching Out to a Potential Mentor

The next question to grapple with is where? In countering the where you need to come up with a 1-5 year plan on where you want to be career-wise. This forms a fundamental pathway to finding a career mentor. Many make mistakes of spending a lot of time in finding a career mentor only to change careers later. This is not only a waste of time but shows a lack of direction.

Secondly, locating a mentor is long and tedious as it is stressful. It literally involves stopping a few individuals on the corridor, short elevator pitches and endless emails sent out. Great career mentors can be found in one’s line of work, especially in our workplaces.

In the book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg likens the process to a character in the book in search of its mother. It is a short story about a bird that hatches from its egg in an empty nest and goes in search of its mother. The little bird asks everyone it comes across with ‘Are you my mother” including kittens, cows, dogs and hens. In most instances, it gets a big No for an answer but rarely relents.

The right career mentor will not simply say a yes but explicit an organic interest to your life, career, interest and you in general.

  1. Nurture the Relationship

Unlike most natural relationships that are two-way, a mentor-mentee relationship is usually one way. It is the mentee’s responsibility to keep it going. Keep your career mentor updated about your progress, initiate chats, express interest in what they are doing. Most mentors lose motivation to maintain the relationship because of this simple concept. It is important to note that the mentor may have a number of other mentees and a workload of duties to juggle with and therefore delegating the role of maintaining a career relationship may seem a bit far-fetched.

The relationship may seem feeble, epitomized by a few answered calls but that should not scare you. Stay on the radar of your mentor by making your presence and admiration known to them. This can be done through retweeting their tweets, liking and commenting their posts in a positive way and the list is endless.

Finally remember, it is perfectly okay to change a career mentor. The relationship is should only be maintained if growth is experienced. Conversely, hopping from one mentor to another may stunt your career progress and it is therefore advised to take time before changing career mentors.

All the best finding your career mentor!

Effective Mentoring Styles For A Leader

Mentoring is a good way to help a person grow personally or professionally. It helps a mentor share perspectives, experiences, skills, expertise, and values with a mentee. A mentor typically ignites a desire to grow or awakes a sleepy ability within a mentee. Whether done formally, within an organisation or informally, at a personal level, mentoring provides support, valuable feedback and the drive needed to unlock the potential of a mentee.

That said, it needs to be done properly so that both the mentor and the mentee can gain from the relationship. As a mentor, you need to know what you want to impart in the mentee and what style the mentee prefers, so that you are able to successfully provide the right guidance and in the right way. Remember, a successful mentorship relationship will give you personal satisfaction, as it helps you shape future generations.

How to be an Effective Mentor

Effective mentor

  • Teach and Model

Teaching is a way of passing on knowledge and sharing experiences, which the mentee can benefit from. Teaching is a process that can be used in a formal and informal setting and helps you shape the development of a mentee through past experiences and expertise. While at it, remember that the mentee picks up values, beliefs, ethics, attitudes, methods, and styles by simply observing your actions. This means that you can mentor by modelling, as the mentee will most likely model their behaviour around your own. The mentee will often follow your path, adapt your approaches, and generally follow your actions. Therefore, your behaviour ought to be that which can be emulated beneficially.

  • Sponsor your Mentee

A big role played by mentors involves opening doors for mentees. Mentors, especially within an organisation or industry, often have the right networks and influence to help mentees grow. If and when a suitable opportunity arises, you can open the door for a mentee to walk in and grow themselves.

  • Inspire and Motivate them

Unlike a coach who simply imparts knowledge in the learner, a mentor encourages and supports a mentee. Oftentimes, this is because the mentor knows the mentee well enough and knows what works for them and what doesn’t. As a mentor, it is your duty to help the mentee merge their personal goals with that of the organization so that they can grow.

  • Offer Guidance and Counselling

A mentor also doubles up as a confidant and a personal consultant of different matters. As a result, you are most likely to be privy to different issues affecting your mentee. As your relationship grows over time, you can guide and counsel your mentee, based on personal experiences and knowledge.

From these points, it is clear that an effective mentor-mentee relationship is grown and nurtured over time. As a mentor, play an active role in managing the relationship, which will develop mutual trust, and this helps in strengthening the relationship.

Mentoring Styles

Mentorship styles

While there is no standard way of mentoring, there are several ways in which mentorship takes place. It is also possible to oscillate between different styles, based on the circumstances at play. Here are some commonly used mentorship styles.

  • Mentoring by Connecting

Think of a godfather. A person with the key to any door that a mentee may need to walk through. As a connector, your role is to ensure that the mentee has the right skills and then introducing them to the right networks and helping them meet the right people on their journey to growth. You hold the mentee’s hand and help them learn how to create networks and maximise these relationships. Your role is especially valuable when the mentee is just getting started and does not have the industry connections to grow. This kind of mentoring can also be situational, where you help the mentee overcome particular hurdles and challenges. Your role as a mentor is to simply help the mentee at a specific time.

  • Mentoring by Challenging

As a challenger, your role is to push the mentee to be what they can possibly be. You know the mentee’s capabilities and you constantly ensure that the mentee remains focused on the goal and that they are achieving key goals. You focus on tiny details and ensure that they are in place. You are firm but very supportive and you can be friendly or tough, depending on the situation. This kind of mentoring works best in formal situations, where you help the mentee set specific goals and targets and keep checking with them to ensure that the progress is on track.

  • Mentoring by Educating

In this case, your role as a mentor is to teach a mentee what you have learned either through experience or in training. It is often helpful when the mentee is interested in learning things that you have superior knowledge in. For example, if you are an entrepreneur and a mentee is trying to start their own business, you can teach them how to manoeuvre so that they can stand on their own feet. As a mentor, you should identify the mentee’s strengths and weaknesses and know how to work with them for a successful relationship. Identify the knowledge gaps as well and teach the mentee the ropes.

  • Mentoring by Cheerleading

Cheerleading is all about injecting positive energy. It is about identifying the positives in a mentee and reinforcing positive behaviour. Even is a mentee makes a mistake, it is the role of the mentor to turn it into a positive idea so that it becomes a learning experience. This is often the most preferred style as it helps the mentee have someone to lean on even on the worst days. Just like in a football match, the mentor who leads by cheering often injects some kind of energy into the player, in this case, the mentee, and this helps the mentee get through the bad days and learn how to maximise on the good days.

  • Mentoring by Ideating

As an ideator, your role is to help the mentee brainstorm on new ideas. Sometimes, a mentee needs a sounding board for new ideas and this is how you as a mentor helps the mentee develop their ideas. As a mentor, you help the mentee plan, think, and see the bigger picture. It is your role as a mentor to help the mentee grow their ideas in sound and executable strategies.

There are different mentoring styles based on the relationship and the set up between the mentor and mentee. As a mentor, you act as a guide for the mentee and help them achieve whatever they are capable of achieving.

Find out the differences between mentoring and coaching here.

Case Study: African Leaders Mentored By Marcus Garvey

While most mentorship relationships happen between people who are close to one another, it is possible for them to happen between people who have never met. This kind of mentorship takes place where as a mentee, you actively seek out information about a mentor and then model your actions on those of the mentor.

Marcus Garvey, one of the greatest leaders of the Pan-African movement, was one such mentor who indirectly mentored many African leaders through his teachings. The leaders actively used his teachings in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Here are 5 African leaders who greatly benefited from the teachings of the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.

Patrice Lumumba

The first elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba is remembered for his great contribution towards the end of the colonial rule of Belgians in Congo. He was a great supporter of Pan-Africanism and strongly advocated for the end of colonial rule in Africa. Just like his mentor Marcus Garvey, Lumumba envisioned a united Congo which was free of colonial and external influences. He advocated for strong African structures and governance systems, which would help Africans and more specifically the people of Congo, navigate their own unique circumstances.

Nelson Mandela

Seen as the father of modern South Africa, Mandela remains a political icon across the world. He famously led the anti-apartheid movement, which ushered in African leadership in South Africa. Mandela often stated that he admired Marcus Garvey and was a keen student of his teachings on Pan-Africanism. Mandela was greatly involved in African Nationalist politics and vehemently fought for an end to racial segregation in South Africa.

Steve Biko

Another South African on the list, Steve Biko was a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement, which returned power to black South Africans. He is remembered as one of the founders of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement, which was influenced by the teachings of Marcus Garvey and advocated for African Nationalism.

Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah is one of Ghana’s iconic leaders, having led the push to the end of colonial rule in the country. Nkrumah first encountered Marcus Garvey’s work when he was a college student in the United States and they greatly influenced his version of the struggle for an independent Ghana. Due to So influential was Garvey on Nkrumah, that the later went ahead to name the national shipping line, ‘The Black Star Line’ and Ghana’s flag has a black star in the middle.

Jomo Kenyatta

Finally, our very own Jomo Kenyatta was a student of Garvey’s teachings of unification and Pan-Africanism. Kenyatta, Kenya’s first Prime Minister and later, president, was greatly influenced by the teachings of Garvey on African pride and made efforts to create a unified Kenya after independence, his vision being the social and economic development of the country.

Marcus Garvey had a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people across the world. Through his teachings and ideologies, he mentored many people who formed various political organisations based on his ideologies. His greatest impact was on different liberation movements across the world, and especially in Africa, where many countries were clamouring for independence.

Patrick Githinji
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