Knowing How to Find a Mentor Can Be the Key to Finding Your Way in Tech
If you want to know how to move your information technology career forward, you need to know how to find a mentor. Your high-tech career is a long journey. As you advance, you’ll encounter twists and turns, roadblocks and pitfalls, forks in the road, and roads you didn’t even know existed. Having an experienced guide who can help you navigate these uncharted waters can be the key to keeping you on the right course in the tech industry.
While some technology companies have formal mentoring programs in which they pair a more seasoned pro with someone just starting out, many new IT professionals will need to figure out how to find a mentor on their own. Your search may include connecting with a mentor at your current company, but you shouldn’t necessarily limit your efforts to your workplace.
Wherever and however you hook up with a mentor, that individual should be experienced, available, empathetic, open, and enthusiastic about helping you. Here are some helpful tips on how to find a mentor who will help you find your way in an ever-changing technology landscape.
Do What Comes Naturally
In your current tech role, there may be someone you work with or for whom you use as your go-to person when you have a question or need guidance. There may be a certain team member you turn to for coding help, or perhaps a senior developer who’s always receptive when you knock on their door looking for advice.
These organic relationships often evolve into a mentorship dynamic, even if neither you nor the other person formally recognizes it as such. In addition to providing general or technical guidance, an in-house mentor can offer you unique insights about your workplace, its culture, and the interpersonal dynamics that play a role in your trajectory at the company.
But in addition to a mentor in your office, there may be issues or concerns that you’re not comfortable raising with a direct supervisor or colleague. Similarly, you may be looking to expand your skill sets and network beyond what an in-house mentor can offer. These common roadblocks prove why you need to broaden your horizons and look elsewhere for a mentor.
Network Like You Know How Important Networking Is
We don’t have to tell you how critical networking is when it comes to finding new opportunities or growing your circle of relationships in the tech industry. But networking also provides a great way to locate potential mentors.
Stay in touch with college friends and other pals in tech and ask them if they know of any good mentor candidates. Go to tech talks and seminars and mingle with your fellow IT pros. If a speaker is particularly impressive, stick around and introduce yourself. Arrange for informational interviews with people whose career paths reflect what you would like to see happen in your own career. Any of these folks could wind up being a perfect mentor.
Style and Substance
A good mentor needs to know their stuff, to be sure. But a person could be the best in their field, a technical genius, a renowned thought leader, and still be a horrible mentor. In college, all of us had at least one professor who was absolutely brilliant in their field but couldn’t actually teach to save their life.
The mentor you want needs to be able to share their knowledge effectively. They also should be someone whose style and approach you find appealing or wish to emulate. Try to find a mentor who shares your values and interests, both inside the tech industry and in their other endeavors. The mentor-mentee relationship is one that combines the professional with the personal. Don’t discount the importance of the latter when it comes to selecting a mentor.
Keep Things Casual
Very few tech professionals become mentors at first sight. Explicitly asking someone to be your mentor at your first meeting is like asking someone to marry you on a first date. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask your potential mentor questions or explore how they may be a good fit. But let things progress casually. Establish trust and a comfort level and build upon that.
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