We all need a bit of career direction sometimes.
That can take different forms depending on the situation. For some of us, it might be opening our laptops and seeking some advice from Professor Google. For others it might be seeking the thoughts of our friends and families.
There’s one type of career development that can have incredible effects if it’s done correctly though, blowing those other options out of the water.
We’re talking about mentoring!
Find the perfect HR mentor and guide to help your professional development by following these simple tips.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is essentially someone who supports your career development. They are a HR professional, experienced in their field, who provides advice, support and encouragement to help you meet your professional goals. The right mentor will help you to unleash your true potential.
A lot of people think that mentoring is more complicated than it really is. At its most basic, it’s just an experienced professional in your industry or field giving you ongoing, one on one support to aid your own professional development. Of course, you can make mentoring as simple or as complicated as you want, but at its core it is as simple as another professional giving you advice.
Think back to jobs that you may have previously had. Was there one particular worker there who showed you the ropes and helped you get to grips with day to day tasks? If so, you probably had an informal mentor.
When it comes to career development, mentoring can really help you to enhance your skills, build your confidence and equip you with the knowledge that you’ll need to thrive in the modern workplace.
Here are some of the best tactics for how you can find a mentor in HR.
Consider what you want from mentorship
Focusing your mind on the key things that you want from a mentoring relationship will help you to save time and energy when it comes to finding the right HR mentor for your needs. As a result, thinking about what you want to achieve from mentoring before you approach anyone is essential. Careful consideration of your mentoring objectives now will save you energy later and make your overall search much more fruitful.
A good way to find out what you want from mentoring is to ask yourself some basic questions that explore your career goals and what skills you’re looking to develop.
- What are my long-term HR goals?
- What are my short-term HR goals?
- What do I want in the long-term from mentoring?
- What do I want in the short-term from mentoring?
- What skills/ experience do I want to develop?
- How long do I want to be mentored?
You’ll then use the answers from these questions to match your requirements with a type of person who already has those skills and experiences, and is able to share insights with you about them.
Create a picture of your ideal mentor
We all look up to someone. It might be a celebrity, a politician or a historical figure. Or it could even be someone in our own community. Role models are an important way for us to improve our skills and motivate ourselves by gently comparing ourselves to someone we admire.
When it comes to the world of work, the power of role models when it comes to achieving career goals has been widely written about. In terms of mentoring, thinking about your ideal professional role model can be a great way to build an image of what you would like to learn from a potential mentor figure.
Does your ideal mentor have experience in a specialist field, for instance? Do they have a particular number of years of experience? What job do they currently have – and what jobs have they had in the past?
By building a picture of what your ideal mentor looks like, you’ll be better placed to recognise the right mentor for you when they come along.
Ask your current professional contacts if they would mentor you
Leveraging the contacts you already know is a great way to save time and effort in the overall process of finding a good HR mentor.
You’ll already have a personal connection with someone you know – and a connection is essential when it comes to building a sustainable mentoring relationship. Building relationships takes time and effort, so it’s much more efficient to try and build on the ones that you already have rather than trying to create entirely new ones (although it’s not the end of the world if you have to).
Of course, the demands of full-time work and modern life mean that most people you know probably aren’t in a position to mentor you, so don’t be downhearted if you receive a few knockbacks when you first start asking.
You don’t know if you don’t ask, so it’s worthwhile finding out anyway. You never know though – someone you know might be in just the position to help you out and give you the long term support that you need.
Here are some methods you can use to try and find a mentor amongst your own contacts:
- Draw up a shortlist of relevant people you think might be interested
- Create a brief proposal for why you would benefit from mentoring from that particular person
- Think about what benefit the mentor can get out of the process too
- Arrange a meeting or phone call with the person to discuss your proposal further
It’s generally better to present your proposal in person rather than online or on the phone as that’s better for building an emotional connection with someone.
Network to find new potential mentors
If you’ve already asked your current professional network and aren’t meeting much success when it comes to finding a mentor, it’s a good idea to try to expand your network and meet new people.
Networking events exist that are designed to introduce you to new people in your profession and enable you to build professional connections. Physical meetups were generally the main way that this was done in the past but the pandemic has fundamentally changed a lot of the ways that we work, so online networking events are popular now too.
A simple Google search can bring up a list of HR networking events near you. It’s also good to check out some of the industry press publications too, like HRMagazine, HR Grapevine, HR Director and People Management.
Professional membership bodies like CIPD can also be a useful way to find potential mentors. As well as hosting specific networking events across the country from time-to-time, your local CIPD branch is a great place to meet new people, build connections and find people that you could potentially learn from.
We explored some ways that you can build your HR network naturally in a previous blog. Check it out to get some tips and advice about how to network without it seeming awkward.
Consider your specialism and professional interests
It sounds rather obvious to say it, but it’s important to remember that you’ll get the most benefit out of the process of mentoring when the person who is mentoring you has the same specialism and professional interests as yourself.
Whilst sometimes you might not be able to find a professional with exactly the attributes that you’re looking for, it is useful to try and find someone who shares at least one professional interest with you, besides from just working in HR.
If you have a real interest in equality and diversity, for example, consider searching for a mentor rooted in that specialism.
Having a mentor who shares your own interests will enable you to receive support and advice that’s much more tailored to your career development.
Look for people with particular emotional attributes
As well as having a particular set of professional skills, you’ll also need to find a mentor that has the right set of emotional attributes too.
You could find a mentor with the most incredible skillset that’s relevant to your professional interests but if they’re a cantankerous, misery-guts who doesn’t get on with people very well that will make mentoring a lot more difficult. Likewise, they could tick all of you boxes in terms of professional experience but could be incredibly busy and unable to really devote their full attention to mentoring you. That can be almost as damaging as having a mentor who doesn’t really want to share their information with you.
This blog by Penny Lorretto for The Balance Careers explores some of the key traits that good mentors generally have. To summarise them, the traits are:
- Empathy – being able to understand another person’s feelings
- Good active listening skills – being fully involved in a conversation and devoting their full attention to you
- Able to devote time to mentoring you
Develop your HR career from anywhere with a CIPD qualification. Download your free CIPD qualification and start your journey today.