How a mentoring relationship helps with career choice

By Alison Hill

You may be coming towards the end of your studies, or planning resource use in your organisation for 2016. Whether you’re entering the workforce, managing young employees or thinking about a career change, it’s time to think about career choices.

Making a career decision is hard. We all hope for a satisfying job that pays well, makes us feel valued and takes us to the next step, but none of us is 100% sure how to do that. It doesn’t help that the world of work is changing faster than ever, and nobody really knows how it will look even five years from now.

Occupations that have been secure in the past are disappearing due to technological change and outsourcing. Forbes magazine predicts the disappearance of farmers, the postal service, data entry, fast-food cooks and loan interviewers and clerks, to name a few. We’re told the future is in medical and health services (especially aged care) and software development. We’re told that the future belongs to the millennial generation, but that they are lazy, narcissistic and entitled. What do we do?

Both those looking to start a career and those managing the new generation of employees can benefit greatly from entering into a mentoring relationship around career choice. Let’s look at how.

Starting out on your career?

Whether you are in a full-time paid position, working as an intern or volunteering, find somebody in your workplace who will act as your mentor. Some workplaces have formal mentoring relationships set up. If not, find somebody who is willing to give you advice and be interested in your professional and personal growth.

Here’s some advice from a 23-year-old sales professional: Find a position in a growing organisation where leaders are striving to improve themselves and their people. Managers should excel at providing honest, critical feedback. Crave this feedback – it’s what makes you grow.

Remember, too, that you can give back. Whether it’s sharing your millennial world view with a Gen X or Baby Boomer manager or simply showing them how to work an app or use social media effectively, you bring value to the mentoring relationship.

Managing those starting out?

If you are managing those starting their careers, you are privileged to have the opportunity to cultivate future leaders. For companies to thrive, the next generation of employees must succeed, and you can help them. Offer to guide and develop a new employee. Give them plenty of feedback and stay connected. The millennial generation have grown up in a connected world and they genuinely want to know what you think, and for you to listen to and respect their views too. Accept that you will not be their one and only mentor, or their guru – they have a few. You are also entitled to expect something in return, and a motivated new employee will be pleased to contribute to your goals and take on some of your burdensome tasks.

The same 23-year-old would tell you that they aim to be surrounded with people smarter and wiser than themselves – in everything they do. ‘Discussing ideas with really smart, wise people is the quickest way to get smarter and wiser yourself. You’ll learn skills that aren’t taught in traditional education. If you don’t come across people like this in your daily routine, use the internet to find articles and videos from such people.’

So whatever stage you are at in your career, consider a mentoring arrangement. It will benefit you in surprising ways no matter which side of the arrangement you are on.

Has your career benefited from being in a mentoring arrangement? Tell us about it in the comments below.