Close

Sign up to get the latest news and stories on the future of work.

Subscribe Search

Search form

Dear ReWorker,

I want to be promoted, and I think I need a mentor. However, there isn't anyone in my company who can help me, and I can't really find someone outside the company either. Do I have to have a mentor to succeed?

Sincerely,

Missing a Mentor

++++++++++++++++++++++

Dear Missing,

Your biggest obstacle might be that you’re putting too much weight on the word “mentor.” I’ve never had a formal mentor, but I’ve had plenty of people who have had a profound impact on my career. 

In fact, some of them may not know that they mentored me. Here are some examples:

  • Susan Heathfield taught me how to use my unique voice in my writing.

  • Pamela Kruger taught me how to charge for my work and that my writing had value.

  • Alison Green taught me how to moderate comments online.

  • Sesil Pir taught me how to expand my client group and reach.

  • Kristen Pressner taught me how to advocate for myself and my speaking career.

I could make this list exponentially longer. There were employment lawyers who tutored me in law, a manager who taught me how to effectively run a meeting, and many others. And of course, I’ve read many books whose authors have helped me, too.

While having an ongoing relationship with a single mentor can be a valuable thing, you don’t have to have one person who encompasses all the knowledge and wisdom that you’re seeking. You’re looking for a mentor who can do all these things, but what you need is just mentorship.

That, you can find on your own. Here’s how:

Join a Professional Networking Organization

No matter what your career is, there’s likely a professional organization within that industry that holds meetings or conferences and shares resources—newsletters, forums, etc. Here’s a whole list of professional networks that aim to increase diversity in tech, for example. Find something that makes sense for your field, and join it. You’ll make connections and friends, and you will learn from these people. And guess what? You’ll also help mentor others.

Become Active on LinkedIn

Follow people in your field. Comment on their posts. Share their posts. Post your own ideas. You will be amazed at the free information you can learn on LinkedIn. Ignore the people with 300,000 followers. They won’t help you as much as everyone likes to think they will. You want to follow the people who are working every day in your field, so look for individuals who engage with others regularly. You never know what a simple conversation on a social platform can blossom into—a person you interact with could be your next manager, colleague or mentor. 

Grow Your Skill Set 

Are there skills that you’re lacking but need to progress in your career? Do you need help identifying these skills? There are a few ways to tackle these challenges. If your company has a learning management system, there’s likely technology available to help you grow and develop. For example, some of today’s tools can apply artificial intelligence to assess the skills you already have and, based on your individual career goals, recommend courses and materials to put you on the right path. 

If your company doesn’t have an LMS, however, there’s a more informal approach you can follow. Go back to LinkedIn and look at roles that appeal to you, or individuals whose careers inspire you. Make a list of the accomplishments and skills that stand out to you, and get to work. Want to learn how to code? Take a free online course. Need to brush up on your public speaking? Join Toastmasters or volunteer to present at a conference. Take learning into your own hands and master the skills you want. 

Don’t let the lack of a formal mentor hold you back. This is a hurdle you can overcome with a bit of creativity and a look at the talent and resources that already surround you.

Sincerely,

Your ReWorker

Suzanne Lucas, EvilHrLady.org

For more advice from our ReWorker, read her column here.