Mentorships may seem like a hopelessly outdated concept to you, but career expert Lindsey Pollak spins it forward and shares three types of hybrid mentors who can help you advance your career.
It used to be common for young professionals seeking career advancement to find a mentor as a guide. The key was to find an older, more experienced worker in the same company to help show you the ropes, give you advice about big decisions and introduce you to people who could advance your career.
To many people in the millennial generation of workers, this may seem like a foreign concept, or at least a hopelessly outdated one. Today, most professionals have been required to take on so many responsibilities that they can no longer take the time to care for another person’s career arc. Also, with so much staff turnover in the typical company, it’s becoming difficult to find an older worker with enough institutional memory to be of much use.
In her 2014 book, “Becoming the Boss,” career consultant Lindsey Pollak talks about the importance and utility of mentorship, but she provides some updates the model to fit the way we work today. These three suggested mentor types, if developed organically over time, can be used as a sort of “personal advisory board” and contacted on a rotating basis, she says.
Be a co-mentor. Instead of the top-down arrangement of an experienced mentor guiding a mentee, the idea of co-mentorship is “more of a two-way street,” Pollak writes. Co-mentors also tend to involve the pairing of an older worker and a younger one, but the advice is given in both directions – the older worker also seeks advice about newer subjects, such as technology or social media. “Essentially, co-mentoring acknowledges the fact that young people have their own wisdom that is valuable to older colleagues,” she says.
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Find a sponsor. Unlike a mentor, a sponsor is a more senior-level executive who can take more direct action in a younger worker’s career. Pollak says sponsors can use their influence with senior management to place people directly in higher positions within the company. She adds that sponsors work more like recruiters than mentors – these are not people to go to for advice or to help solve a career dilemma. A sponsor’s role is to sell your expertise, so focus your conversations on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Talk to your peers. In this level of mentoring, look for a peer who is roughly in the same position and has the same experience level as you, but who is not a direct competitor. Peers, Pollak writes, “will really understand the day-to-day experiences and challenges you’re facing. Sometimes there is no one more valuable to turn to for ideas, recommendations, or just a sympathetic chat on a rough day.”