Many career development books suggest participating in company-sponsored mentoring programs. While participation in these programs can help skill development and career growth, find an external professional mentor.
External mentor relationships provide significant benefits. First, they are often more rewarding and worthwhile than internal mentoring programs, which may be poorly run or compulsory. Second, external mentors are impartial and can offer unbiased advice and suggestions on your long-term career and current job opportunities. Third, external mentor relationships can last a lifetime and continue through job changes and relocations. Fourth, external mentors can open doors to different or more extensive social and professional networks.
When looking for a mentor, find someone who has done or is doing what you want to do in 5, 10, or 15 years. Identify those with mutual interests and a desire to establish new personal and social connections. How do you find external mentors? Use social networks, professional societies, and activity clubs. For example:
- Join a professional society in your area of interest and make a new friend
- Use LinkedIn and other professional networking sites to identify second or third-degree people of interest; ask your contact, the mutual connection, to make an introduction
- Contact your school’s alumni association and ask to add a solicitation for mentoring or career consulting to the school’s newsletter, magazine, or website
- Reach out to fellow classmates, colleagues, friends, and family to find mentors in your field
Join social clubs populated by people knowledgeable and experienced in the areas that you would like guidance; in addition to sharing professional interests, you also get to share a hobby or recreational interest