March 5, 2018 7:00 am

Stuck in your career? Here’s how a mentor or sponsor can help

WATCH: Thinking of getting a mentor? Ways to boost your career


It’s never too late to find a mentor or a sponsor: a person who is willing to push you further into your career.

A mentor can give you advice or guide you down a career path, says writer and millennial mentor Pauleanna Reid, but a sponsor can advocate for you when you’re not in the room.

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“They make phone calls, send off intro emails, put their name or reputation on the line to help further your career,” she tells Global News. “[For a mentorship], this relationship is often a casual one which can range from a coffee date to several seasons to a lifetime.”

READ MORE: What is a transitional career coach and how can one work for you?

Finding the right person

Reid, who is both a mentor and a sponsor, says figuring out which one is right for you depends on what you want out of the experience.

If your mentor or sponsor is already feeding you information that you already know, try looking for someone who is an out-of-the-box thinker, she says.

“A good mentor should challenge your beliefs and push you to your limits. What I love about my mentors is their vulnerability. They aren’t afraid to share their past struggles because they understand that your underdog past is the key to your successful present.”

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She also suggests looking for someone — either at work or through your network — who is qualified to be a mentor or expert in their field.

“The mentor-protege partnership should feel natural, not forced. However, if you don’t necessarily click with the person, it’s okay. It just means you need to move on,” she continues.

Where to start

Reid says a mentor or a sponsor can be found anywhere. Some will be face-to-face or some relationships can be fostered through social media.

“Mentors can be found through alumni associations, in the classroom, at an event — everywhere,” she continues. But the biggest mistakes she sees people make is finding a mentor or sponsor who gives bad advice.

“You need to be able to tell great mentors from poor ones,” Reid says.

WATCH: Join the discussion on gender equality and the importance of mentorship

And while each industry has their big names, Kathy Caprino of Forbes suggests never asking a stranger, especially a popular one, to be a mentor.

“Their time is already spoken for, and they’re drowning in similar requests. Secondly, they don’t have a relationship with you, and therefore can’t know how you operate or if it’s a great investment of their time to help you,” she writes in Forbes.

Caprino suggests instead, find people who are 10 steps ahead of you in your field, role, or industry, and if there is a mentor who is out of reach, follow their work instead of asking for mentorship.

But Reid says you need to be able to have a structure that will allow both the mentor and mentee to benefit. “You need to take the initiative to suggest a schedule which is beneficial to the both of you,” she says.

“I have a one-hour phone call every month with one of my business mentors. It’s more than enough time for us to catch up, discuss what’s next and come up with strategies to be successful at future goals.”

Why people take the role

Anyone who is a mentor or sponsor will say it can be a rewarding experience, Reid says. “The best part about being a mentor is watching my girls and guys grow right before my eyes.”

READ MORE: How to find a new job — besides looking at postings online

And according to the American Psychological Association, being a mentor can lead to lifelong benefits. “A lot of learning happens outside of the classroom, and mentoring is a critical part of it,” graduate student Ayse Ciftci told the gradPSYCH Magazine.

Reid says a few years ago, she mentored a young single mother who had a history of drugs, homelessness and alcohol abuse.

“What I love about her the most is that she raised her hand and has expressed she wants help. She wants to change her life and out of all the people in the world, she believed I can help her achieve her goals,” she says.

“It’s an honour. Nothing can beat this feeling. I take my role very seriously.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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