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How IT mentors can help advance your tech career

Rich Hein | Jan. 30, 2013
A strong work ethic, degrees, certifications and experience aren't always enough to get you where you want to be. While those items are the foundation of a solid IT career, sometimes you need insight from someone who's climbed that mountain already. Here's how a mentor can help you move forward in the IT field.

With that knowledge in hand, weigh your strengths and weaknesses against your company's goals. This should give you a pretty good idea of the qualities you are looking for in a mentor. For example, let's say your company makes most if it's sales via salespeople, but the company wants to build a stronger online marketplace to build a new revenue stream. Finding a mentor who deeply understands search engine marketing and optimization could help put you in the fast lane to responsibilities that take you someplace you never expected.

Where Can I Find a Mentor?

The first place to start is your HR department. Find out if it has a formal or informal mentoring program and let a representative know you are interested. There are other places to look as well, Spano says. "The places you can find mentors have improved greatly with the advent of social media. That said, the tried-and-true 'look around you' and networking with friends and colleagues is also a great way," says Spano.

If your company doesn't have a mentoring program and you have the desire to act as an agent of change, then go to your HR representative and tell him or her you'd like to help set up the program. HR's buy-in, like with most career programs, can be a make-it or break-it factor. The worst that can happen is they say no.

Another option: "Not every IT person knows what they want to do in 10 years but if you know what aspect of IT interests you, seek out someone who is in a role you aspire to within your company," says Cashman. Don't confine yourself to just the people you know.

A third option, if you can't find someone at your workplace or within your peer network, is to use professional networking sites to target people in your area who hold the job you are seeking. Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook's Branchout are great places to identify mentors and groups with similar interests in your area. Many times simply identifying and asking the right person is all it takes. Again, the worst that can happen is they say no.

How to Get Things Rolling

So you've been introduced and are getting ready to meet with your new mentor. Keep in mind that this is a professional relationship with a business advisor, not a friendship, and it needs to be treated as such. Be on time, have specific questions in mind, keep personal items aside and do your best to keep the meeting on point. Below are 13 tips from Lodhi on how to get things moving:

  • Update your resume
  • List your goals
  • Establish what is expected from mentee and mentor
  • Identify frequency of meetings
  • Identify how the success of mentoring will be measured
  • Agree on how to connect in the interim.
  • Agree on ground rules: confidentiality, giving/receiving feedback and so on
  • Get to know each other: For example, find out how your mentor got to where he or she is in the company
  • Share what you hope to get out of the relationship. What things are you particularly interested in?
  • Share your feedback from any assessments. Share a key development area and ask for help and feedback throughout your relationship.
  • Share any areas of development you are working on, ask if they've run into similar challenges in their career and what they've done to address them.
  • What are they/you reading right now? (e.g., business books, leadership books and so on.)
  • Where are areas that you can help them? (e.g., reverse mentoring, research)


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