We often hear about having an emotional support system in our personal life. But did you know that it’s essential (and also possible) to have a good support system at work? This means having someone you can turn to for guidance, suggestions and support (either in your organization or externally).
You can often find this support from a mentor or guide. This is important because not everyone in your personal life may understand the challenges you may face in your profession, nor would they be in a position to help you effectively all the time.
If you’d like to know more about an ideal mentor and developing a healthy workplace support system, have a look at these pointers:
· Understand your needs using the four W’s: start with self-reflection to understand exactly what you are looking for. Where do you want help: more exposure/learning, acquiring new skills, addressing specific limitations, etc.? Ask yourself what you’d like to gain from this relationship (for example, more guidance, identifying areas for improvement, etc.) Also understand who you’d want in your support system (an experienced person from your own line of work, their areas of strength, having similar work-values, etc.) Finally, when would you need this support system to fall back on (is there a specific time of year when you need this the most like during appraisal season/ during a promotion/ changing roles, etc.).
· Finding a mentor: once you are done reflecting, reaching out to your immediate circle of professional relationships and networking can help you find a mentor. Try approaching your managers or others in senior positions for references. You could also think about managers from previous organizations, professors from college, experts in the field, etc., who may be able to help. Talking about your need to several people could also help get the word out.
· Your mentor’s qualities: identifying the personality traits, values and qualities of your mentor are also important because it will help build a strong working relationship. It is advisable to look for a mentor who is a good listener and communicator, is available and accessible for help, and has expertise that furthers your professional goals. It also helps to have a mentor who has good leadership skills, is goal-oriented, organized, confident and encouraging of you.
· Maintaining the relationship: while starting off the relationship is definitely important, maintaining the relationship is even more crucial. You and your mentor can mutually decide how often and under what circumstances you’d like to connect with each other. It’s usually a good idea to keep in touch, especially to highlight both your successes and challenges. Establishing a relationship based on trust and respect goes a long way. Remember to be patient and continue working towards the healthiest possible mentor-mentee relationship.
· Giving back to your support system: finally, keep in mind that you can also give back to your mentor and add value to the relationship. You too have certain qualities and strengths that are important to be shared. There could also be instances when your professional experience could help another person cope with their own concerns.