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The Importance of Finding a Career Mentor

by kirupa   |   filed under Product Management and Beyond

Think of a career mentor as your personal career friend and advisor, helping you reach your work goals. Let's talk about why it is important for you to find one!

Whether you are a Product Manager, Engineer, Designer, or a part of any other discipline, finding and working with a career mentor is one of the most important things you can do! This applies to you both if you are new in your career or if you’ve been around for a while. You are never too junior or too senior to have a career mentor!

Here is the thing. Outside of your immediate manager, career mentors play an outsized role in helping you navigate the various twists and turns you’ll undoubtedly encounter. They can provide an outside perspective that can highlight blindspots in how you function. They can be a good sounding board to give you an idea if a situation you or your team is in is normal or abnormal. They can also help you spot opportunities and be a core part of your professional network. This is something that gets increasingly more important as you become more senior.

Early in your career, you want a mentor that has a lot of context on the work that you do. This usually means it is someone who works very closely with with your team, can observe how you work, knows your manager reasonably well, and can provide insights into how you can be more effective at your job. This mentor is almost an extension of an onboarding buddy that you may have had when you newly join a team.

As you get more experienced, what you need from a mentor is less feedback on how to optimize your day-to-day activities. You need someone who can help you get to where you want to be in the future. There is a famous quote by J. Loren Norris that is appropriate here:

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.

To find this more experienced career mentor, an approach to use is the following: find someone whose skillset is one you greatly admire and who is doing a job today that you would like to be doing in the future. This person does not have to be working in your company or team, but they should have context into where you are coming from and what some of your day-to-day challenges may look like.

Many organizations have formal programs for matching you with a career mentor within your company, so do take advantage of them if they are available. If such resources aren't available or you want to find a career mentor outside of your company, this is one of those moments where LinkedIn is an especially great resource!

Conclusion

Hopefully this helped you to better understand the important role career mentors play and why working with one is one of the smartest things you can do. This content lives in a bunch of places beyond YouTube. You can interact with this content on Twitter / X, LinkedIn, or TikTok if you want to share it with your networks there...which I would totally appreciate!

Just a final word before we wrap up. If you have a question and/or want to be part of a friendly, collaborative community of over 220k other developers like yourself, post on the forums for a quick response!

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