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Do You Need a Mentor to Have a Successful Career?

A puzzle with the word mentor on one of the pieces.

Common advice says that if you want to move ahead in your career, you need to find a mentor. However, it can be difficult to find a mentor who will agree to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise while helping you set career goals, resolve difficult problems, and connect with professional contacts. Even if you can find someone willing to dedicate their time to your development, do you need a mentor to be successful?

Career communications strategist Kelly Donovan believes you do, and refers to her own mentor relationship:

"You need to be mentored by someone who has been there. This is true whether your goal is career advancement, changing careers, or growing a business.

You would be amazed how many successful people have had mentors along the way who helped them. In fact, I suspect that most successful people have probably been mentored at some point."

Ilya Pozin, founder of OpenMe, says that most people aren’t lucky enough to have a mentor and that in most cases, people can step up to be their own mentor:

"Maybe you work under a manager who’s too swamped to offer guidance, or your workplace lacks a formal mentorship program. Regardless, it’s completely possible to initiate a level of leadership to gain your own mentorship perspective and even benefit your coworkers in the process."

Part of the challenge might be rethinking what mentoring should look like. Is it having someone offer you one-on-one guidance or is it building a support group of people who offer you advice? Perhaps the question shouldn’t focus on finding a mentor, but rather on being clear about the kind of support you need and finding it.

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by Aaron McCoy

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