Want to get ahead in your career? Then get a mentor

Choosing someone to work with as your mentor can be a powerful way of learning and development, says Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting. Here's how to go about it.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~ John Crosby

"A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you."  ~ Bob Proctor

Want to get ahead in your career?

Then get a mentor.

It could be someone in your target career, in a similar role in an organisation you’d like to work for, or someone who embodies the skills, attitudes or approach that you would like to develop. Maybe someone springs immediately to mind.  Or maybe you need to do some research first. When you know who, ask him or her if s/he would be willing to be your mentor.

I recognise how influential some mentors and colleagues have been in my own life and career, providing a sounding board, encouragement, constructive feedback, support, ideas, inspiration and often opportunities too. 

At times it’s been someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt to prove it, and at others it’s been someone who offers different skills and abilities to my own.  Whatever stage of your career that you’re at, having a mentor has great benefits.

What is mentoring?

Myles Downey, author of Effective Coaching says, “A mentor is someone appointed or chosen to help another with the achievement of their long-term goals and career rather than immediate performance issues.  The relationship is almost always outside any line management relationship.”

Mentoring is about having access to someone who will provide support, advice and guidance on a one-to-one basis.  

True mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge.  Some large organisations offer mentoring schemes, matching you up with someone in the same organisation, but often it’s up to you to approach someone you’d like to learn from, whether within your own organisation or industry or in a different sector that you’d like to get into. 

If no-one springs to mind, ask people in your network for suggestions and/or introductions.  This article offers some interesting observations on choosing a mentor and making it matter.

How does mentoring work?

Once you have secured their in principle agreement, you meet with your chosen person. 

It’s a good idea to use the initial meeting to establish whether or not you will get on.  If the chemistry is good, agree how long the arrangement will last for, what you want from it, the frequency and location of your meeting. It is helpful to have a general direction for the mentoring process, so that you and the mentor can focus your discussion, rather than have a general chitchat. It’s also good to come to each discussion with a specific topic in mind. 

This is an interesting take on modern mentoring.

What’s in it for the mentor?

Usually people are very willing to answer your questions and offer you advice if you ask for it. Leaders get a buzz from being asked and also seeing the people they have mentored progressing into more challenging roles. Your mentor may even open up opportunities for you through his/her network.

What’s in it for you?

Building an important relationship, learning from the experience of a role model, learning about yourself, being challenged, receiving feedback.

And if your mentor is someone at a more senior level, the more influence they could have on you and your career! 

So who will you approach now?


Hilary Jeanes is a leadership coach, facilitator and HR Consultant.  She works with individuals and organisations to enable them to realise their potential.  Contact her on 01763 245323 or by email to Hilary@PurpleLineConsulting.co.uk.


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