Mentorships are essential to advancing your career. Often, mentoring relationships are seen as a strategy for building your network and gaining access to new opportunities. But having a trusted mentor can do much more for your professional development. It can help you clarify your goals, hold you accountable for making progress toward those goals, teach you critical leadership skills and provide free access to on-the-job knowledge.
“Through formal and informal mentoring discussions, we can learn from the lived experiences and insights of others—those that are near peers to those who are at a more advanced career stage,” said Daniel Horgan, founder and CEO of CoLabL. “The more we engage in mentorship, the more options we uncover and can explore in pursuit of our goals and our definition of success.”
How would a mentorship boost my career success?
According to Horgan, the very definition of success is often influenced by formal and informal mentors who have inspired and/or informed us along our journey, including those that have shown us what we don't want to be/do.
He added that mentorship can benefit one's career trajectory by...
- Discovering new pathways and opportunities in HR (we don't know what we don't know).
- Gaining support in mapping our transferable skills and experiences to growth opportunities (taking on new challenges).
- Strengthening in-demand skills such as collaboration, critical and creative thinking and adaptability.
How do I find a mentor?
As a student, you have access to a valuable resource available for finding a mentor—your advisor and professors. They are well-connected with HR professionals and can provide introductions.
One of the most effective strategies for finding a mentor is joining HR communities and participating in events. Attending SHRM chapter events can introduce you to other professionals who are established in the HR field. The SHRM Foundation hosts mentorship experiences that will help you expand your network, hone your skills and strengthen your HR expertise.
If you’re working, find out if your employer has established a mentorship program. Even if you’re working in a part-time role, unrelated to the HR field, a company’s mentorship program can help you kickstart your HR career by connecting you with professionals in the field.
Other ways to meet mentors can include using an online search to find mentorship platforms or organizations designed to help make these connections. You might also meet a mentor at places you might least expect, such as during volunteer work or at other activities related to your hobby.
Can I use AI as a mentor?
AI has a role to play in mentorship but can’t replace the benefits of working with a person.
“As humans, we crave connection,” Horgan said. “Mentorship facilitates connection—connection to one's network/community, connection to one's sense of purpose/direction, and connection to a sense of fulfillment/satisfaction. Mentorship also serves as a forum for storytelling—and as humans, we are wired for collecting and telling stories.”
While generative AI can respond to prompts to create data, text or images, it lacks emotional intelligence. Effective mentors can recognize the influence of emotions on the conversation and adapt to best support you.
“Great mentors are processing not only the words shared in discussion, but they are paying attention to body language and what is not being said as well,” Horgan said. “They are asking a series of great questions, versus giving answers, to gather more context, offer more relevant perspective, and adapt how they are engaging/supporting a mentee to create an inclusive and nurturing environment for growth.”
But AI has a role to play in mentorship as a tool. Horgan shares these examples AI can enhance a mentorship:
- Prioritize matches in mentoring programs.
- Identify topics mentorship discussions. For example, “What are five ways that I can do xxx?"
- Contribute to skill development. For example, identifying patterns such as voice, style, and tone of a person’s communications.
- Gain insights on how to respond to a difficult workplace situation using AI. “What are four ways that I can discuss feeling undervalued with my manager?” Horgan said. “Then, in their mentoring discussion, they could role play the options and determine which feels most authentic and most likely to achieve the progress that they want.”
- Create learning plans related to specific goals or skills development opportunities. “You can use AI to analyze patterns in 360 feedback received from multiple people to assist in identifying blind spots, strengths, and more,” he said.
- Develop a list of potential interview questions to practice responding. Horgan recommends a prompt such as, “What are four behavioral-based questions focused on problem solving?”
Kickstart your career with a mentor
A mentor will encourage you, support you, offer suggestions and counsel, and assist you in identifying and achieving your objectives. It can be an important relationship in your life and one that could have a big influence on your career decisions and professional path.
Meet a mentor who can share career insights and help you expand your network at one of the SHRM Foundation’s many mentorship experiences.