Career Coaching: How Mentors Help You Get Ahead At Work


It’s a truism that having a mentor is important if you want to fast track your career.

An experienced advisor can steer you along a career trajectory, navigating around professional obstacles, and raising your profile with senior executives.

Your mentor is someone you can trust to provide sincere performance feedback, since they are invested in seeing you succeed.

Mentors can open doors for you – online and off – to networking opportunities, internships, informational interviews and insider job openings.

Gaining the public endorsement of your mentor can go a long way toward building your professional credibility, especially if they are a recognized leader in the field. They can also assist you to better understand the industry.

Since it’s National Mentoring Month, the timing is right to consider the qualities of a good mentoring relationship, and some strategies for finding a great advisor – or two.

Three qualities of great mentors

There is a long list of attributes to a successful mentoring relationship, but here are three of the most cited.


The right mentor can help you develop the skills for career success – and unlock a world of opportunity.

It may seem obvious, but a good mentor will consistently make time for you in their schedule.  You’ll get more out of a busy advisor if your meetings are structured with an agenda or at the very least, by a list of questions you come prepared with to productively guide the conversation.

Good listener

Your mentor must seek to understand who you are and what you need before jumping in with advice, knowledge, and insights. Instead of delivering a lecture, the best mentors listen actively and ask the right questions – inspiring you to do the thinking.

Confidence builder

In the process of engaging with your mentor you should be developing greater self-awareness. Your mentor should help you to see and believe in your own potential, challenge and inspire you, and encourage you to reach for your highest goals.

Finding your career mentor

Many workplaces have formal mentoring programs, but there are many ways to find informal mentoring relationships on your own.

Go back to class 

Register yourself in a professional development seminar to learn a new skill or upgrade existing ones – and in the processes connect with industry experts. For example: Canadian Marketing Association SeminarsThe Entrepreneurs’ OrganizationThe Canadian Association of Women Executives.

Use social media

Find, follow, and reach out online to influencers on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Quora – to build a personal learning network. And don’t forget to join and contribute to LinkedIn Groups.

Fill up your events calendar

Research and plan to attend industry events, to learn what’s new and connect with organizers and speakers as prospective mentors.

Introduce yourself, business card in hand, and having done your homework and perfected your elevator speech.

And because as Seth Godin rightly observed that “no one actually ever bought anything on an elevator” – craft your speech to begin professional relationships, not as a hard sell seeking to close a deal.

Communicate your professional drive, says former Hulu CTO Eric Feng, and “don’t be afraid to get in front of someone and show your passion.” Start your event search at Eventbright.

Forming strategic alliances

Found a mentor?

Great, now keep looking for another one.

As IMD professor Suzanne De Janasz advises, “more is better than fewer” when it comes to career advisors.

“Even if you have the smartest mentor in the world in your back pocket,” De Janasz warns, and even if they provide you with excellent mentoring advice and the performance feedback you crave, “one person does not know everything.”

And since all good things come to an end, take the advice of Ian McAllister, General Manager at Amazon, and give some thought to how to dissolve the relationship appropriately.

To know whether the relationship has run its course and it’s time for new mentorship is your answer to a question posed by Jeanne C. Meister on Harvard Business Review, namely, “am I continuing to learn and grow?”

This content is excerpted from my professional development course in personal branding with social media, offered online at Queen’s University.