Five Reasons to Get a Mentor (and how to find one)

What do Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey all have in common? They all had mentors!

As defined by Merriam-Webster, a mentor is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced person.”

The idea of a mentor might be a foreign concept to many, but mentors can be a valuable tool for any professional who wants to reach new heights in their career. There are a variety of benefits of having a career mentor. A mentor can help you:

  1. Expand your professional network. These days it is just as much about who you know as it is what you know. By connecting with a mentor in your industry, you not only build a new, valuable relationship, but you also get the opportunity to tap into their professional network. You never know who they might introduce you to! 
  1. Learn to think outside the box. Gaining another perspective can be a great tool for enhancing your performance in the workplace. Mentors can help you see something in a new way, which may alter how you approach certain projects or tasks. Thinking outside the box can also help when you are working with others, because it will help you see a variety of perspectives. 
  1. Define and attain long-term goals. Having professional goals is important, but sometimes they are hard to define and even harder to accomplish. Mentors can help you with identifying your professional goals, and they can also help with creating a game plan for achieving them. Having a plan in place helps boost your confidence as you work toward your goals. 
  1. Push past your limits. Everyone can use a cheerleader or advocate when it comes to professional development. Mentors encourage us to challenge ourselves and to keep growing, and they remind us to never stop working to be better. With a mentor as your guide, you might just surprise yourself with what you are really capable of achieving. 
  1. Hold yourself accountable. Mentors will congratulate you when you do something great, but they will also give you constructive feedback when you need it. Not only will a mentor hold you accountable for reaching your goals, they will also teach you to hold yourself accountable.

“But how do I find a mentor?”

The process for finding a mentor might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider finding a mentor within or outside of your workplace. Try to identify someone you aspire to be like or someone who has experiences you could learn from.

You can also consider joining the UMUC Mentor Program. This online, career-based mentor program connects UMUC students and alumni with alumni mentors. There are more than 700 mentors available who want to help you on your professional journey!

To learn more about this program and to join, please visit umuc.edu/mentor.

Rachel Shannon works in the office of Career Services and Alumni Relations at UMUC. She is the coordinator for the UMUC Mentor Program and manages the UMUC alumni social media channels.