You’ve gotten over your first-day-on-the-job jitters, and you’re no longer being taken out for celebratory drinks and congratulatory dinners a few nights a week. You can get through a whole day at work without having to ask a hundred questions, and your coworkers are even starting to trust you with your own projects. Work life is starting to seem downright ordinary–ho-hum, even.
So, time to put your feet up on the desk and coast, right?
At this stage in your career, your learning curve should never flatten. Constantly seeking outlets to challenge yourself will not only keep you engaged and growing, but it will also make you a standout in the office–and first on your supervisors’ minds when it comes to promotions. And who better to advise you than someone who’s already a success story in your field?
**SKC’s Top 10 Reasons You Need a Career Mentor**
1. To hold you accountable. Like I said above, no coasting allowed! If you’re working with people you like and you’re competent at your job, the temptation is strong–especially in today’s economy–to stay secure there. But playing it safe could be keeping you from a job that would challenge you and allow you to grow in your career. A mentor who inquires about your latest projects and interactions could spur you to seek paths that fulfill your potential.
2. Practice. Ever get stage fright when talking to your higher-ups? Interacting with a mentor can be a lower-pressure situation, one in which you still want to appear poised and engaged, but where your daily duties and deadlines aren’t center-stage.
3. If you’re thinking of making a career change. Whether it be from one department to another or to a different industry entirely, a mentor can be an invaluable firsthand source of information about a particular job path. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and get a sense of the transition you’d be making before you dive in to applying.
4. To give you a “homework list.” Are you taking the initiative to create new projects for yourself or to redesign processes that aren’t running as well as they could? Do you seek out feedback from your boss to see what you’re doing well and where you could do better? A mentor can provide suggestions like these and check in periodically (hearkening back to #1) to see how you’re doing on them.
5. To learn what you need to learn. Want to go further in graphic design? Chances are you’ll need experience with some pretty specific software. Looking to climb the ladder in financial services? It might help to read national (or international!) coverage of your field’s day-to-day business. Pick your mentor’s brain for the tools you should have in your box, and put them on your homework list.
6. To learn what it is you don’t like. Maybe, after several weeks or months of talking with your mentor, you realize that the career you’d started out envisioning for yourself actually isn’t where you want to see yourself in ten years. That’s okay. Realizing what we don’t want to do is equally as important–if not more so–than finding what it is we’re truly passionate about.
7. Networking. Maybe your mentor doesn’t do exactly what you want to do in your career on a daily basis. But chances are, he/she is established enough to know someone who does. Having a trusted contact put you in touch with someone in your desired field practically guarantees a warm reception, and it opens up even more avenues for exploration and inquiry on your end.
8. Access to resources you didn’t even know you had. Did you know about that lecture series for women interested in technology jobs? How about the weekly happy hour for entry-level professionals in media fields? Experienced mentors can be a fountain of information about other ways to get involved and meet people with similar career interests and drive.
9. For dress rehearsal. Having an eagle eye to read over your resume or give you suggestions for a more targeted cover letter can be a load off your mind when job applications start to feel overwhelming. Plus, mentors are typically at the point in their careers when they’ve gone on so many interviews–or even given them–that they can give you an idea what sorts of questions to expect.
10. Reality check. To remind you that it’s really OK if you’re not a CEO yet. Promise.
Tara Powers has worked in the publishing industry just long enough to convince you that she actually knows what she’s talking about. She can personally vouch for the value of a kick-in-the-pants mentor, and she prefers to self-medicate with cupcakes (which she then blogs about at Chip Chip Hooray).