In college, I happened upon an incredibly supportive supervisor who became my mentor. She imparted advice and supported me in only ways she could. One of the single most influential people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Her name is Susan. I believe everyone needs a Susan. Here’s why:
A mentor, consultant, or trusted advisor can be invaluable to your professional success. By definition, a mentor is someone who advises or trains someone, especially a younger colleague. While yes, Siri and Alexa can answer nearly every question you have, they would be poor mentors. Unless your biggest professional question refers to the weather, or what time it is.
Regardless of your industry, you can benefit from a mentor. A mentor-mentee relationship is particularly beneficial for young professionals early in their career, but it is also advantageous for mid-level professionals seeking advancement. Why? It can be summed up in a single word, advice.
Mentoring relationships typically exist to impart advice. Susan shared advice with me that was relevant and tailored to my professional development. Mentors are awesome because they are living proof that whatever they’re telling you actually works. They’ve made it, so obviously they’re doing something right. This makes it much easier to trust what they say and put their recommendations into action.
When you seek a mentor, it’s good to find someone who is successful at doing what you want to do. They should be an expert in your desired field. Successful people are usually willing to share their experiences, mistakes, lessons, and passions. After all, they’re proud of where they are and how they got there. And if they’re a decent human, they want to help you succeed, too.
At the same time, it’s also important to understand that seeking a mentor doesn’t make you inept, it makes you incredibly resourceful. No one has all the answers. I don’t. You don’t. You can only benefit from teaming up with another professional. Respect their experience, analyze their recommendations, and determine which pieces of advice are best for you based on where you are and where you want to go.
When I reflect on my journey as a young professional, I can point to specific pieces of advice that influenced my course of action. Sometimes I took what my mentors said verbatim and acted on it. Other times, it wasn’t the actual advice they shared, but what they said that sparked a chain of semi-related ideas.
Advice is awesome. Learning from someone else’s mistakes is a pretty good deal. And reinventing the wheel is for the birds.
If you already have a mentor, thank them. Thank them for their time and dedication to your success. Thank them for their stories, recommendations, and advice.
If you don’t have a mentor. Go find one. You will be rewarded by this relationship.
And like all good “based on a true story” movies, in case you’re wondering, Susan is still awesome.
Need help finding a mentor? Reach out to The Mentor Method. We’ve teamed up with some pretty awesome “Susans” we think you’ll want to meet.
Laura Riley is a higher education professional and freelance writer who specializes in job search and career advice. She believes a job should make you happy and is dedicated to helping people achieve that reality. She loves to inspire professional development through writing and conversation.
She graduated from Miami University with a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education after obtaining a business degree from St. Norbert College. She is a Wisconsin native and a lover of the Midwest. She enjoys rearranging furniture, people-watching at airports, and football Sundays.