How to find and use an HR mentor

Getting good advice from someone who is already successful is invaluable when you’re looking to progress your career, so finding yourself a mentor is a smart way to get help understanding how to develop your professional self.


What does a mentor do?

An HR mentor is normally an experienced professional who can guide and advise you. They will share their skills, expertise and contacts, be able to provide constructive feedback and help resolve difficult issues.

They can also give you confidence, help you target your ambitions more effectively by setting career goals and inspire you to achieve more than if you were left to your own devices.


How do I identify who should be my mentor and how do I approach them?

To find the right mentor you need to think about what you want out of the relationship. What’s your next career move? Do want someone local you can meet regularly with or are you happy with discussing things over email? Do you want someone with a specific skillset or more of a general role model?

Once you’ve narrowed down what you need from your HR mentor, it’s time to start looking for them. It could be a senior HR professional in your company or it could be a former boss or supervisor. Contacts through friends and family are also a good place to start.


"Busy senior professionals aren’t necessarily going to have the time or willingness to mentor" 


If there is no one immediately obvious then you need to widen your search. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people who might fit the bill. Connect with industry leaders on Twitter, join in with conversations and interact with them, then think about approaching them once you’ve established a basic relationship.

However, it is important to make the right approach and even more important to make sure they’re interested in mentoring in the first place. Busy senior professionals aren’t necessarily going to have the time or willingness to mentor you unless you can offer them something in return.

Sometimes a direct approach is best. Tell them confidently who you are, what you want and how it might benefit them. Make it compelling, you’re asking them to give up time to mentor you which means time lost doing other things for themselves.


How do I manage the relationship with my mentor?

Mentoring is a bit of a grey area, it’s not like a boss/employee situation so it makes sense to map out from the start what the expectations are from both sides.

Try and put a structure in place for meetings, focusing on how often you will meet and what you will talk about. It’s also worth planning out what you would like to discuss in advance so you’re not wasting your time or theirs.


What should I look to get out of the relationship?


Like any human relationship, a mentoring one will fail if it isn’t nurtured. Make sure you put the effort in and you will reap the benefits – those with mentors generally have higher salaries, more successful careers and report higher job satisfaction. 


The relationship may naturally come to an end once you’ve achieved your goals and that’s not a bad thing – as you continue in your career and your ambitions change you will find other mentors to help you further.

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