“Your network is your net worth” might sound cliche, but it is the truth. Networking helps you build lasting and supportive relationships with others. It is one of the most effective methods for finding a job, switching careers, or staying in tune with trends in your industry.
Although networking is highly beneficial, it can be daunting and time-consuming. However, having a mentor shortens the journey. A mentor can help you improve your interpersonal skills and find career opportunities in the industry. A mentor can introduce you to their network and supercharge your growth.
This article will explain how getting a professional mentor can expand your career opportunities. Also, look out for tips on creating a network, finding a mentor, and how a successful mentoring relationship can lead to growth.
What is a mentor network?
A network of mentors is a group of professionals you look up to and go to for advice. They’re commonly called a “personal board of directors”. They provide motivation, serve as your sounding board and share important insights with you. You can have different people for different stages of your career.
If you already have a mentor, consider any mentorship gaps you want to fill. Perhaps your current mentor is fantastic in some areas, but not others. Close these gaps by widening your network.
- Are there new skill sets you want to gain?
- You’re not sure about trying out a trend and need a nudge?
It is time to fill those voids with new mentors relevant to your specific needs.
- You can have one mentor as a sounding board for new ideas.
- Another can be for reality checks when you have an inaccurate self-perception.
- A third can be a career guide sharing their experience to guide you in making future decisions.
In short, consider your career goals and if you have mentors helping you reach each of those goals.
Why one mentor isn't enough for today’s professional
The most accomplished C-suite leaders have a mentor network that promotes their professional development. Different mentors can have specific roles to play in your developmental process.
They can exist in different domains and eras of your career. Here are some reasons a single mentor isn’t enough:
- Different skill sets: These set of trusted guides have different skill sets and have successfully navigated the career goals you’re considering. Also, no knowledge and experience are exactly the same. A mentor can give you critical feedback in areas like time management, interpersonal relationships, and leadership. They share varying knowledge that contributes to your professional growth.
- A wider network: Through more mentors, you can access a larger pool of references. A mentor network increases your visibility by providing new opportunities to network and identify possible collaborators and experts. When your mentors introduce you to their network, you’re likely to be remembered when opportunities show up. You get a personalized introduction that can be the reason your career transforms.
- Career changes: A mentor in a different career path is useful when you want to switch careers. It always helps to have a mentor in the field you’re moving to. Or you want to learn new skills related to your field. You can connect with a mentor that has the skills you want. As you move up the career ladder, your mentoring needs can also change. You may require more emotional support, leadership skills, or someone with a similar journey.
Choose your network of mentors wisely. Seek diversity and have a goal for each relationship.
Great mentors are exceptional listeners, want the best for you and will share their experiences. They provide invaluable opportunities for your growth and give unfiltered feedback. It is a two-way street, as a mentee, be receptive to change and candid advice, and you will build a high-quality mentoring relationship.
The cycle of networking, mentorship, and growth
If you don’t know how to go about leveraging networking for career growth, the following steps are key to maintaining a cycle of networking, mentorship, and growth.
Network— Attend events within and outside your company where you can meet potential mentors. Be it low-cost or free seminars for professionals. You can look outside your circle too. Reach out to people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, roles, industries and fields.
Find a mentor— A former peer, career coach, a friend’s parent, alumni or undergraduate supervisor could be your mentor. It could be someone within your network or an individual you meet at an event. Having mentors from various industries and stages in life will improve your perspective.
Build a relationship— Nurture your relationship with people in your network. Build a rapport with them. Let them know you’re looking for opportunities. They can mentor you in an informal way and eventually become formal mentors.
Apply what you learn— Mentorship isn’t just about meeting with a chosen mentor, sitting face-to-face and listening to advice. It is also about acquiring practical lessons and applying them. The products of these mentorship experiences will be useful throughout your life and career.
Mentors sponsor your development— It is important that your mentors be people who have your best interests at heart. That way, they can advise you, point you to the right opportunities, and ultimately ensure you achieve success.
Repeat— As you move up the career ladder, your needs change. You can repeat the cycle above to guarantee career growth and success.
Why networking is the first step to finding mentors
Truth be told, networking can be intimidating, especially when you’re dealing with a senior colleague or an expert in your field. The fear of rejection and failure makes it more difficult. However, the benefits far outweigh a few moments of feeling uncomfortable. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know the answer, though.
Failing to network and leverage relationships increases the chances of career missteps, feelings of isolation, missing out on career opportunities, and avoidable knowledge gaps. You can avoid all this by having a network of trusted mentors. Networking with senior executives and industry professionals is the first step to finding a mentor. Connecting with them clarifies and defines your career interests in several fields while making meaningful connections. Take advantage of networking to build a relationship that could morph into mentorship.
Your boss doesn’t have to be your mentor. You can find a mentor outside your immediate professional circle by networking. However, if your boss is the right fit for what you need, take full advantage of that.
How mentorship can expand your network
Workplace mentorship or other forms of mentorship, such as a mentoring circle, have several advantages. They can facilitate your access to relevant people. We’ll discuss five ways mentorship expands your network below:
Use a mentor's network
The most direct way that a mentee can benefit from their mentor’s network is to add the contacts to their own network. Mentors can help their mentees by introducing them to key people in their network. Consider individuals that could help a mentee find a job or help boost their career.
Your mentor can introduce you to other professionals in their circle. Introductions can take place at networking events, seminars, or professional associations. You can also ask your mentor to refer you via professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. Leverage your mentor’s network and thrive.
Develop your networking skills
Your mentor can teach you how to reach out to people. They have years of experience and the right skills to their advantage. Being bold, approaching people at an event, and starting a conversation is key to networking physically. You can also get recommendations from your mentor on whom to approach. Maybe you need another mentor with some technical skills, your mentor might know just the right person.
Being a seasoned professional, your mentor probably knows where the top experts in your field hang out. It could be local groups or associations that organize business networking events. You can attend such gatherings with your mentor and hone your networking skills.
Economical way to connect
Connecting with professionals from other organizations or different fields is ideal for your personal development. You can also have them as recommenders or references when you need one. Through your mentor’s network, you can meet people without paying for an expensive or international event in another country. Even if you have to pay, you can deliberate with your mentor on the event, saving time and money.
Be amidst the right people
The people that surround you in the community, workplace, and life play a vital role in shaping you for the better. You need to network to have access to people who will share their life lessons and influence who you become. Mentors that help you recognize your potential and surmount obstacles on your path to success. Your mentor can help you find the right people and build your own board of directors from their network.
Networking can be a pain, but its importance can’t be ignored. Although the right education and credentials are essential, a solid network can tip the scales in your favor. Mentorship helps you expand your network and visibility in your field. The mentor-mentee relationship is one of mutual regard and meaningful contribution. A mentee should be willing to take responsibility to get the most out of the connection, as he or she stands to gain the most from the relationship.
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