10 ways to use a Career Mentor

mentor on a chalkboard

Careers are getting bumpier. The speed of change in most organisations makes the traditional career pathways less obvious and sometimes blocked. Many people in employment have experienced tough times when, through organisational change, they have been side-lined, they’ve ended up with a boss they couldn’t work with, they’ve had their job reduced and possibly they’ve been made redundant. For many people these experiences have been quite regular. Here are a number of ways that you can try and keep your career moving along healthily and see your career work for yourself as a foundation stone to a happy and fulfilling life.

1. Start at the Beginning

The first way to use a career mentor is to invest time in just where you are with your career. Understand what intentions you have, whether that is just for the final ten years, or maybe if you’re younger or in your mid-career, what it is you hope work will enable you to do. Your starting position will of course have something to do with your history but for most people the starting position is “what’s my purpose? Where am I headed? What is it I’m trying to create for myself?”

2. Use Them for Transition

A second way for using a career mentor is when you have a specific need. “I want to move from where I am”. The need for that transition drives the need for a career mentor to help you. Somebody who could give you objective advice, somebody who could help you focus your attention on the fundamental elements of transition, then to project yourself confidently into the market.

3. Stretch Yourself

Another use of a career mentor is to provide stretch. Quite often in our professional work we are cruising in our job. Quite often we are not being pushed or challenged much. A career mentor can help you to understand how you can stretch yourself now for a future that you know you will want to be occupying. That can be through different elements such as formal leaning or more laissez-faire learning.

4. Confide

A fourth use of a career mentor is as a confidante. You want to invest time with a career mentor. When they get to know you and understand your situation, complications of life, where you are at different stages, you have somebody you can turn to at anytime who is going to be able to pick up exactly where you are in your professional life. A short conversation can take you a very long way because 5 minutes with somebody that knows your world, knows your intentions, can be worth many times that number of minutes and hours with a stranger.

5. Consider Regularity of Use

How often do you want to use a career mentor? Is it something you might have to do on a regular basis or can it be more ad hoc? You may want to retain a mentor and agree to have a certain number of conversations during the year. There are other retainment relationships where they are completely ad hoc. You know you’re going to spend some time meeting with your mentor but it’s flexible as to when you actually engage.

6. Invest Time in Uncovering Your Assets

Increasingly professionals are retaining career mentors because they realise the importance of survival and thriving in their professional work. When you get to that position of commitment, they realise the importance of putting time in with a career mentor to invest in a real, deep trough of history that you’ll be able to look back on, together with that future look. A mentor is well versed in the assets that we can have and are utilities in our professional environments.

7. Expect Periods of Intensity

A relationship with a career mentor is likely to have periods of intensity and periods of plateauing. This is reflective of our very own careers. Using a career mentor for a period of intensive work is only going to last for a matter of weeks and maybe only for a number of years. These periods of intense activity come where you’re looking to change, to accelerate into a promotion or new role, when you’ve been given a role and are looking to have early impact or when you’re transitioning out of your current organization. The career mentoring relationship goes through these periods of highs and lows in terms of intensity.

8. Build Strong Networks

We want strong networks and we want good active connections pinging off regularly. Working with a career mentor helps us to have relevant connections. We want connections that are a two-way street. There’s reciprocity, people are as interested in hearing from us as we are from them. We want to be clearing relationships that have gone stale, are too one-sided or have become irrelevant. It’s better to have a smaller number of active connections than a higher number.

9. Learn About Digital Platforms

A career mentor can keep us much more tuned in. We want our profile to show us in a good light all the time. Most times we edit our profile when we come to a key point in our life. In these days of digital technology it’s possible to be an alive, active worker and to be seen every minute in the day. Why would you not want your profile to be kept up to date and accurate? A mentor can help with this.

10. Get Clear About What’s Next

Use a career mentor to get yourself clear about the next phase of your career. What is that next step that you’re planning to take? How clear are you about that?


Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition and the Career Ignition Club. Position Ignition is one of the UK’s leading career development and career planning companies.

The Career Ignition Club offers a range of career support tools, advice and e-learning materials for its members.


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