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Marek Zaluski
Marek Zaluski

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Why You Need (at least) Two Mentors

Here's one of the best pieces of career advice: Get a mentor!

The support and feedback that you get from a mentor is invaluable. You don't get this kind of value from any other source of career input: whether you read career blog posts, watch Youtube videos or follow people on Twitter, nothing is as useful as a mentor who you can actually talk to.

But when people say "mentor", they aren't always talking about the same thing.

There are two kinds of mentors. Let's break it down.

The job mentor

If your mentor is one of your co-workers, then they're what I call a job mentor.

At some companies, when you join the team, they assign you to a mentor. That mentor's task is to get you acquainted with how things work at the company, and serve as someone that you can turn to with questions and concerns.

If there's no official mentorship program at your workplace, then you should try to get a job mentor by approaching someone yourself. It's good to do this early on.

Ideally, find a mentor who is not your direct boss. This is because the mentor relationship is different than the boss-subordinate relationship. The mentor is the person you can go to when the concern or question that you have is actually about your relationship with your boss.

The career mentor

If you have a mentor outside of your workplace, then you have a different kind of mentor: a career mentor.

A career mentor is someone you can talk to when you're looking for big-picture career advice. It's someone you can ask about switching jobs and deciding on your next move.

Having a career mentor is good for the questions that you wouldn't ask your job mentor. Maybe you have serious concerns about your workplace and you want an outside opinion. Maybe your employer isn't investing into your career development because they don't want you to go get a better job elsewhere. Then you need an external perspective.

Let's be real for a minute. Not all employers care about your career development. Most just care about the here and now: the productivity that you're providing to the company's bottom line at the present moment. So your employer isn't typically the best place to get good career advice for the longer term.

How do you find a career mentor? Approach someone who is a few years ahead of you in their career, and who is doing the kind of work that you'd like to be doing. Ask them about their career path and how they got where they are. Most people are very eager to share their work experiences.

You need both

Ideally, you need at least one mentor of each kind.

You need someone to "on the inside" in your company so that you can decode the company culture and figure out the unwritten "this is how we do things here" rules.

But you also need an outside perspective who can call out the group-think of your workplace.

Do you have a story of how a mentor helped you in your career? Share it in the comments.

Top comments (8)

georgecoldham profile image

I also have what I would describe as a "specialist mentor". He is a professor at the leading edge of one of my passions within tech. I can ask him for advice on where to look for more ideas and inspiration and he can advise and help if I have any hurdles.

Its not career directly, although it is beneficial.

allenheltondev profile image
Allen Helton

So in your opinion, can you grow out of the need for a job mentor if you've been with the company for a while?

marek profile image
Marek Zaluski

Sure, and I think a great way to give back is to eventually become a mentor yourself.

allenheltondev profile image
Allen Helton

I love that mentality. It's the exact right frame of mine to be in.

Another thing to note, to expand on what you said a bit, as you grow in your career/company, you can continue to utilize job mentors, they will just change in their roles and responsibilities. When you get promoted and have additional duties, you will have new peers/job mentors who can guide you along and give you the lay of the land and answer any new questions you might have.

lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski

For me the bigger problem is how to find people who want to mentor you.

Still did not figure out that part

geeksesi profile image
Mohammad Javad Ghasemy

always it's a problem :D

ronaldoperes profile image
Ronaldo Peres

i am looking for a mentor!!

geeksesi profile image
Mohammad Javad Ghasemy

also i want a friend :D

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