Regardless of where you are in your business career, there are always people who are at least one step ahead of you. They have walked the road you are on right now, and although their experience is obviously not identical to what you will face in the future, they can shed some light on your circumstances. One of the best ways to prepare yourself to advance in business is to find a professional mentor who will guide you through your roles as a businessperson.
Professional mentors can help you excel in several areas. For example, they can shed an objective eye on what you are doing in your position now and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Mentors can also act as sounding boards for projects you are working on and areas where you are struggling and need help deciding which path to pursue. Their experience qualifies them to help you in these areas. In addition, mentors can help you step back and see the big picture of your career trajectory. While you are wrapped up in your current problems, your mentor can see where you are going and what you need to do to get there.
When you decide that professional mentorship is right for you, the next step is to find an appropriate mentor. The mentor should be someone whom you respect and trust to provide accurate insight into your professional life. In many cases, your boss or supervisor at your current job is willing to mentor you while you work for the company. This is because your success will help the company excel, so they get something out of it as well. If you are just getting started on a career path, you can also contact organizations in your desired field and ask whether any of their employees would be willing to meet with you in a mentoring relationship.
As you and your mentor get started meeting, be sure to outline what your expectations are. Typically, you meet for no more than one hour per week, often over lunch or coffee. Depending on the situation, less frequent meetings might be better for both of you. Outline what you want to get out of your time together and what, if anything, you feel you can offer to your mentor in return. This could be as simple as buying the meal or acting as a sounding board for any projects your mentor is working on and needs to hear how they would impact someone like you.
During your mentoring sessions, listen attentively to your mentor and make sure she knows how valuable her time is to you. Share the projects you are working on right now and get your mentor's input on these if you are struggling with them. Also discuss your career as a whole and how you can continue developing the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field. Be direct and intentional with the way you use the time so your mentor knows that she is actually making an impact on you. Also, remember that it never hurts to ask your mentor if there is anything you can help with in return!