You’ve heard it again and again: Everyone needs a mentor in their career, if not several. Just like you want the kind of friends who can successfully guide you through life’s twists and turns—like how much you should spend on your next apartment or whether or not you should get bangs—you want people who can provide that same level of support in your career. And mentors can be valuable in just about any stage you’re in, whether you’re job searching, getting adjusted in a role, looking to move up, or exploring a new and intimidating path.
But what exactly makes for great mentorship? We’ll let you in on the secret formula to finding and keeping the perfect mentor for you.
What Is a Mentor?
A mentor is a person who provides you with the tools, guidance, support, and feedback you need to thrive in your career. They’re often someone who’s gone down the same road you’re on currently and is “there to advise you on what they’ve done and what’s worked for them” says Muse career coach Brad Finkeldei.
Just about anyone can act as your career mentor—a friend, a friend of a friend, a family member, an alumnus of your school, a co-worker or peer, a current or former boss, someone you got to know through a networking event. A mentor isn’t someone you admire from afar. They should be able to play a consistent role in your life over some period of time.
Al Dea, founder of CareerSchooled and a Muse career coach outlines several clear benefits of having a mentor in your career.
First, they’re knowledge and opportunity centers—they can “provide you with insights and context and experiences that either you may not necessarily have at all or you have limited visibility into,” he says. Plus, having a mentor “can help you get unstuck” when you’re struggling to come up with a solution to a problem or can’t seem to make a decision.
Having a mentor also helps you build your professional network because they may know or be connected with people who can help you down the road.
(Oh, and being a mentor provides plenty of benefits, too, including leadership training, access to new professional contacts and opportunities, and the satisfaction of being a part of someone else’s success. It’s really a two-way relationship!)