January is National Mentoring Month; when we think of mentoring we think of programs that connect youth with kids to read to them, spend time with them etc. However, mentoring is also a great professional development tool that allows one to build relationships for one’s professional development. Over the course of my life and career, I’ve learned to define mentoring as the mechanism that combines what you know with who you know. There are two types of mentoring relationships formal and informal mentoring. Informal mentoring are relationships that you develop through your own connections. Formal mentoring are relationships that are built and development through programs at work or school.
Mentoring relationships can be established with teachers, counselors or professionals in your field. A good mentor will take your professional development to a level that you could never achieve on your own or with what you learn in your coursework. You can also have more than one mentor; just be sure that at least one of your mentors is in the field of your chosen career path. Below are a few of the ways that mentoring relationships assist in one’s professional development.
Below are a few of the ways that mentoring relationships assist in one’s professional development.
A good mentor can help guide you on what elective course you should take that will help you achieve your desired career goals. For example, if you want to major in biomedical engineer a good mentor will recommend that you take biochemistry and bioengineering courses.
Career Counseling and Management
A good mentor will help guide you with all of the external classroom learning and work experience you will need to have in order to help you achieve your career goals. For example suggest research experience, internships and what professional societies you should join.
A good mentor will teach you some of the soft skills you need to learn in order to be successful in your career; most of those lessons will come by observing them. The type of soft skills you can learn are professional etiquette, networking, etc.
Build Your Professional Network
A good mentor will teach you where you need to go to meet the people who should be in your network. At times your mentor will connect you to people in their network that they believe that are willing and able to assist you in achieving your career goals.
When you find a good mentor, you must remember that the responsibility of building and maintaining this relationship is on you. Although this person by agreeing to be your mentor is willing and able to help you achieve your career goals, you must remember that you need them and they don’t need you. Your mentor has already accomplished what you desire to accomplish in your career and developed the skills they need to advance their career. In your relationship with your mentor learn and communicate with them in their preferred communication method (.i.e. email, call, text, face to face meetings), be sure to apply the knowledge that they share with you, provide them with updates on your progress and most importantly say thank you often.