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A successful career does not happen by accident, rather it is a design of carefully executed planning and one of the ways to achieve this is to have a career coach or what most people call a career mentor.

In this article, we will look at who a career coach, how to find one, and what questions you should be seeking to answer when you have a career mentor.

Let’s dive in.

Coaching as a term is mostly used in sports. The role of Arsen Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane, and a host of other coaches, cannot be over-emphasized in telling the success story of their players. This means coaches are important.

However, for an individual who intends to pursue a career path in any other profession, say Accounting, the role of a coach is not seen as a necessity or of utmost importance. But in the real sense, having a coach is a necessity. This and even more will be thoroughly explained in the course of this article.

Now, while a coach is a frequent term used in the area of sports, in the context of pursuing a professional career, the term mentor is often used in its stead. Thus in the course of this article, both terms, “coach and mentor” will be used interchangeably.

What is Career Mentoring?

Career mentoring can be understood from different perspectives. In general, it has to do with the relationship that exists between two persons – the mentor and the mentee.

While the mentor is an individual who has gained a wealth of experiences, skills, and professionalism in a particular career path, the mentee is an individual who intends to learn and master some or all of these attributes that the mentor has gained in his or her past years.

Primary to note in career mentoring is that, the relationship often occurs between people of like minds. In this context, it may be restricted to like-profession –similar or same.

While this is very important is that, in mentoring its necessary that both parties have similar goals.

The mentee’s goal is often to gain personal development or acquire some relevant knowledge in the pursuit of his or her career.

The mentor’s goal similarly is to help the mentee gain that development as fast as he or she should.

Thus, both parties are like minds. They set similar objectives, pursue similar goals and actualize similar fulfillment. The difference only lies in the role each party plays.

While the mentor is at the giving end, the mentee is at the receiving end.

For example, an individual, who may be an entry-level employee and intends to pursue a career path in the area of investment banking is most likely to excel faster when he pegs himself against another employee who may be a senior-level staff in that same investment banking firm or a similar one.

The reason for this is not farfetched. When you have someone who you look up to and serves as a standard and guide in your career pursuit, you tend to avoid making the mistakes they made while in your level and even do better than them.

Isaac Newton who formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation once said that “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants – those that have gone ahead of me.”

This points to the fact that mentoring is important, it is key. It helps you see with the eyes of those who have gone ahead of you in your field of pursuit and even accomplish more feet than they already have.

Who is a Career Mentor?

There may be no unanimous definition of who a career mentor is or the attributes required to become one. However, as a rule of thumb, a career mentor should be one in the same profession the mentee intends to go into or currently is.

This is because mentoring is all about training. In sports, for example, one who has been a golf player for twenty years cannot effectively coach one who wants to go into tennis playing.

No matter how experienced the golf player is. It’s two different ball game entirely. It can’t work. So also it is in professional careers. One who wants to pursue a career in computer programming, do not get a mentor in the educational sector. Two cannot walk together, except they agree.

Having said that, who is a career mentor?

What are the attributes you need to see in identifying them?

Generally, a career mentor is an individual who has gained practical and professional experience in a particular career field and is willing to teach and train another who is willing to pursue a career path in that profession.

An example of a career coach could be a retired boxer who finds interest in a talented and upcoming boxing trainee who wants to pursue a career in boxing.

The retired boxer would mentor the trainee by helping him realize all that is necessary for him to tap into his full potential. That is a career mentor – one who is willing and able to teach you about your field.

Typical career mentors have some attributes that make them suitable to be leaned upon.

The attributes are as follows;

  • Career mentors are individuals who have accomplished great feats that you desire to accomplish also.
  • Career mentors are individuals who are willing and able to replicate the same order of professionalism and expertise they have, down to their mentees.
  • Career mentors are individuals with great leadership abilities. This makes them capable of commanding inspirational appeal and motivating their mentees.
  • Career mentors are individuals who love dealing with people. They love interacting with young minds and find joy in seeing the young grow.
  • Career mentors are teachers. They are trainers. They are disciplinarians. They have a passion for helping younger people accomplish the same order of feat they ones attained and even more.

All of these means, having career mentors is a necessity for speed in one’s career.

Types of Career Mentors You Can Have

In choosing a career coach, the phase one currently is in his or her career path is very crucial. For an individual who is pursuing a career, the end is always in sight – the goal to be attained and place to ultimately be.

For example, entry-level staff in the banking profession to ultimately become a World Bank analyst would need different mentors in different stages of his or her career.

The kind of mentor(s) needed as an entry-level banker is different from the one needed when he or she becomes a branch manager. It also becomes different when he or she becomes part of a bank’s top management and so on.

Thus, in choosing a career mentor, one must consider the phase of the career path he or she currently is, and know when to focus on the next mentor(s) when it becomes necessary.

1.  Career Mentors for Short Term Period

A typical short-term period ranges from one month to three years. This often falls in the early stage of an individual pursuing a career.

At this phase, the kind of mentor to be looking for is one that you can get in touch with physically without delay. One who lives around you?

One who probably works as a senior-level staff in the same company? One who will help you grow and give you the foresight to the immediate next level you intend to attain.

It gets to a particular phase in your career, this mentor may not be able to give you the desired inputs needed for you to get the next phase. When this happens, the career mentor for this phase becomes inadequate. You will need to tune to the next.

2. Career Mentors for Medium-Term Period

Medium-term period ranges from four to ten years. This means that the kind of mentor needed here is one who can provide advice and guide to a mentee that goes into the future for the next ten years.

A mentor in this category will be someone with relatively more experience, exposure, and expertise, than the one a short-term mentor can offer.

A medium-term mentor does not necessarily have to be someone living around you.

It could be an individual who is making an impact in that profession of the mentee, perhaps in the same industry, region, or country.

3. Career Mentors for Long-Term Period

In the example given before of an individual who aims to be a World Bank analyst, this will be a long-term goal for him. Thus, he will have a career coach using a long-term view.

One whose advice and guidance will pay off in ten or even twenty years. This is strategic. As an entry-level banker, this kind of mentor will not be easy to come in contact with. He or she may just be one you admire and hope to be like in the future.

You start following him you through different mediums. Through his biographies or autobiographies, others write up of his in form of books, articles, etc. This way, he becomes your mentor. He coaches you even without an actual knowledge of him doing so.

If your dreams pull through later on in life, you may get to meet him and then the mentoring continues now with his knowledge.

Each of these types of mentors is mutually exclusive. Having one does not prevent you from having the other same time. You can even have all at the same time, but with varying insight and foresight. As an individual, you can have one coach from each of the three in your career.

The one you can meet physically to put you through every tiny detail, the one to serve as an immediate form of reference in your locality and the one to serve as a source of inspiration and motivation towards attaining your ultimate goal. All coaches are important.

Why is Career Mentoring Important?

Now, the importance and significance of a mentor in the life of an individual who wishes to follow a career path from the first stage to the ultimate goal cannot be over-emphasized.

The importance of career mentoring are thus as follows;

1. Guidance

The career mentoring program offers the mentee the opportunity to be duly guided in the pursuit of growth in his or her career. This is because the mentor has passed the same path of career the mentee is currently going through.

Thus, the mentor’s experience now serves as a guide – a frame of reference for the mentee to follow through. You no longer need self-experience to be your best teacher.

Your mentor’s experience would suffice. Also, the guidance it offers could otherwise have been paid for or not easily available to get.

2. Professional Advice

As an entry-level employee who may be pursuing a stock trading career in an investment bank, the most appropriate place to get such professional advice from would be a mentor in the capital market industry.

One who has been a stock trader for a very long time would be able to offer such professional advice and opinions needed for him to attain the peak of his career.

3. Speed in One’s Career

While one may grow in his career without a career coach, a mentoring program offers the mentee a relatively faster pace of growth than one without.

It also offers a tremendous opportunity for the mentee to learn strategies and basic tenets about that profession in a way better than one without a mentor.

4. Motivation

In the course of following a career path, obstacles may occur. Frustration comes in some stages that will leave you in a limbo. At this stage in the career, motivation becomes invaluable.

Words of inspiration and motivation offered to the mentee years ago or even currently becomes very effectual. Thus, career mentoring at this stage offers morale to the mentee to take some actions that will launch him into a new phase of his career.

5. Discipline

A mentor offers disciplinary measures to the mentee when necessary. This could be in the form of words of chastisements when necessary. It makes the mentee accountable for his career actions and gets appropriate feedback from the mentor when necessary.

Where do you Find Career Mentors?

The kind of career one is into will determine where he or she will find the appropriate mentor to guide him. Generally, a banker cannot find an appropriate career mentor looking for him in a construction company.

Now, while it may not be out of place for one in career A to have a mentor in career B, specifically, however, one should also have a mentor in his chosen field of career pursuit. That’s why it’s called career mentoring – being mentored by someone in the same or similar career.

Platforms to find career mentors are thus as follow;

1. Family Members

One’s parents, elder sibling(s), cousins or other relatives’ often than not primarily serve as people who could serve as a mentor for one pursuing a career. Especially when one of the relatives is in the same line of business.

For most people, one of these relatives often are the ones who persuaded them or they got inspired from, to follow a particular career path. For example, Ben Carson’s, the first medical doctor to successfully separate Siamese twins had his mum as his mentor. The mum was not a medical doctor, neither was she even educated. Yet, he found encouragement, motivation, and discipline from her.

Apart from them, a handful of others also took after a family member in a particular profession. They allowed themselves to be mentored by them with any means they could.

2. School

Most people also found their mentors while in school –secondary school or the university. Being a student offered them the exposure needed to set the pace for their career.

Most mentors here were teachers or lecturers who taught these students the courses they loved. Some of these teachers went the extra mile in offering career advice and motivational counsel to make the students better persons. The school serves as a great platform to get a mentor.

3. Place of Work

For one who is bent on making an indelible mark in his or her career, getting at least one mentor in his or her immediate place of work will be quite quintessential. The mentor here will serve as one to look up to for the time being.

One to get immediate feedback from every time a career decision is made. A mentor here could be the manager of the firm where the mentee works, a senior staff level employee, or even a colleague at the same level or division. Most people find their mentors through this platform.

4. Professionals in Same Career

This is perhaps the most fundamental platform people get mentors from. It is only basic for one to have a mentor in the same profession or career path he or she intends to follow. As said before, a banker may perhaps not find an appropriate mentor for him in a construction company.

Most bankers have mentors in the banking profession. This applies also to all forms of professions. For example, the Nigerian popular writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a mentee of the renowned Chinua Achebe of blessed memory.  Both icons are obviously in the same profession.

5. TV Shows or Movie

Most people pursuing a career in areas of arts and humanities, often get to find a mentor in television shows or movies. For example, one who acts may likely have an unconventional interest and love for a particular actress in the movie industry. This public figure may now serve as a mentor who would be looked up to by the mentee to become someday.

For example, Frank Edwards, a gospel singer once talked about listening and watching Don Moen on TV even as a kid. Today, Don Moen is one of his mentors. So many other singers, actors, and actresses also found their mentors watching some movies.

6. Social Media

The mentorship process has become relatively easier than it was before. This is due to the rapid increase in technological development. People can now be mentored via career professional sites and blogs. The primary of this is Microsoft’s LinkedIn platform.

LinkedIn is a business and employment-oriented social networking service that operates via websites and mobile apps. It helps people of similar and different careers to connect easily.

It has also made mentorship easier in the sense that an individual can just search for people in his chosen field of a career that has characteristics he or she desired.

7. Religious and Social Affiliations

Mentors can also be found in any religious or social association that one is affiliated with. When a mentee sees a potential mentor, he or she will know. The mentor is identified by the mentee based on the attributes he possesses.

What Questions Should You Ask a Career Mentor

The question you ask can be used to make sound judgments and conclusions about you. Over time, intelligent people have been able to distinguish themselves from their contemporaries based on the questions they ask. In career mentoring, this is not so different.

Based on the status of most mentors, they may not be easy to come in contact with. Thus, any opportunity one has to meet them, intelligent questions will be appropriate to ask.

Based on insights gathered from some mentees, some questions were compiled that would be appropriate and intelligent to ask. While some of these questions are general, some are only to be asked in specific contexts.

The following are some intelligent and appropriate questions to ask your mentors when the opportunity arises;

  • What has been your greatest challenge in your career pursuit?
  • What kept you going when you encountered challenges?
  • How have you been able to overcome various challenges that come your way?
  • What are your core values in life?
  • What’s your vision?
  • Are you fulfilled doing what you currently do?
  • Has there been any particular secret for your success? If any, what’s it?
  • Have you ever thought of anything that could make you leave this career?
  • How do you balance your career and family life?
  • What are your hobbies?

While pursuing a particular career path is great and laudable, pursuing it with someone is inarguably a better choice to make. Especially one, with more experience in that field. Being part of a relay race is relatively easier than running single a 100*100 meters race.

This is because, at a point in your career, you will need help – encouragement, motivation, discipline, and love. A career mentoring program offers these and even more.

Find a mentor today and give your career that speed.  

Written By
Ogugua Belonwu is the founder of Myjobmag, a leading publisher of the latest Jobs in Nigeria. He is a software developer and believes everyone has a chance to succeed. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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