You’ve probably heard that having a mentor can benefit the start of your career. But did you know it’s also great for established professionals?
Whether you’re a first-time student, career changer or seasoned executive, having a mentor can be one of the most rewarding professional relationships you’ll experience. And while the person in your partnership might change with each career phase, a few things will stay the same.
You’ll meet regularly, share an affinity and learn from your successes and failures. And throughout the process, you’ll both grow your networks and develop your professional selves.
Here’s how mentoring can and add value to your career– no matter what stage you’re at.
Early-career mentoring: for when you need a confidence boost
As an undergraduate looking for an entry-level job, mentoring is all about navigating different work options and career pathways. Having a mentor can improve your self-esteem and confidence to choose and apply for jobs. It can also help prepare you to interact with senior leaders, and understand the different types of skills and experience employers are looking for.
Heath Mitchell, a final-year Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Finance1 student at La Trobe, says he’s benefited from having a professional mentor so early on in his career.
“It’s so important to have someone when you’re just beginning, because you don’t know the workforce and your network is limited. Having a mentor means there’s someone in your corner”.
Heath is currently searching for graduate positions, and said it was helpful to have a mentor to help plan his future.
“It’s good to have someone interested in your development who’s been very successful in their field – it gives you confidence,” he says.
Many graduate programs offer mentoring support for new starters, so consider making this a benchmark in the search for your first job.
Mid-career mentoring: for when you’re refining professional skills and networks
The middle phase of your career often coincides with the need to upskill. Maybe you’re preparing for a career transition, or looking to develop people and relationship skills to complement the technical skills you’ve honed?
Whatever your situation, it’s likely your mentoring needs have evolved. A mid-career mentor can support you to develop your relational skills, expand your industry networks and refine your career direction. They can also help you become savvy to workplace dynamics, and share insight into what it takes to be a skilled business leader or manager.
La Trobe alumnus Regan Carr, who is Managing Director of product supplier Warequip, knows the positive impact a mentor can make for postgraduate students. The business leader says he has had many mentors in his career, beginning with his lecturers at La Trobe while he was studying a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration and Management.2
“We all have people who have had a great impact on us, and it’s often not until years later that we realise just how important they were,” Regan says.
“I had a marketing lecturer at La Trobe who was wise beyond his years – and I think it’s so important to have mentors like this in your life.”
Ideally, a mid-career mentor is someone who’s overcome the obstacles you’re now facing and who can advise on the best way through. Looking for a peer in your field of interest, but who works for a different organisation, can help avoid conflicts of interest.
Reverse mentoring: for when you’re at the top of your career
These days, mentoring isn’t just a one-way flow of knowledge from old to young, experienced to inexperienced. Connecting with people of different ages and diverse points of view is now essential to the globalised world of work, and multigenerational workplaces are the norm. In fact, major companies have started to run ‘reverse mentoring’ programs, matching senior executives with millennials to exchange fresh perspectives and encounter new ways of thinking about work.
This view of mentoring as a mutual exchange is key to La Trobe’s mentoring program, which allows alumni to connect with the next generation of graduates. As an alumnus mentor, Regan says he’s learned plenty from mentoring a younger student.
“I was able to share my personal experiences with Heath, and we spoke about a range of things from politics, legal frameworks and doing business internationally since that is something I have experience in,” he says.
“And as mentors we have so much to learn from the students as well. I’ve been communicating with two students now and they offer a new perspective. It’s also nice to see that there’s so many young people who are highly intelligent and very motivated – it’s great that they’re coming out of La Trobe.”
If you’re ready for a supportive relationship with mutual career benefits, perhaps it’s time to consider becoming a mentor or mentee. You and your career companion will swap career journeys, share insights and extend your professional network. And ultimately, you’ll help shape the future of your profession.
Find out how you can receive critical guidance and career planning support through La Trobe’s Career Ready Mentoring Program, which connects undergraduate, postgraduate and MBA students with alumni and professionals. For more information about how you can actively prepare for life beyond La Trobe University, visit Career Ready.