In the 12 months I've had my job as brand manager for a global publishing company, I've learnt a hell of a lot.

In the 2 months I've had a mentor at one of the biggest branding consultancies in the world, I've learnt a hell of a lot more.

You might've heard a lot about the importance of mentors in your career, but often with the attached mystery of Yoda-esque inherent wisdom. Everyone needs a mentor! You won't progress without one! But how to go about getting one? How do you even know where to start? Should they be in your field, or from a different discipline? There's a whole lot that can fall under that umbrella term of a 'mentor'. I like to think of it like this - whether formalised relationships or not, after a certain period of working people will emerge who you turn to regularly for advice and who help to shape your approach to the work that you do. That can be the beginning of forming a mentoring relationship - it's that simple.

From experience, I can say it's good to formally ask and set up some kind of framework - how often you'll meet, and whether you'd like to bring issues or questions to them to discuss, or whether you'll just have a more general 'check in'. Think about what you want to get from the relationship - is it specific advice on how to progress in your field? Or more general career guidance - a lot of women at the beginning of their careers find it particularly useful to speak to a woman in leadership in any discipline, if that's a particular aspiration, for example. No one form of relationship is more useful than the other. And no one mentorship should be for life - it's most useful to set short term goals, and check in at regular intervals to make sure you're both still getting a lot out of talking to one another.

So why do these relationships matter? Here are some of the tangible benefits I've felt since working with a mentor...

1. A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE: Reporting into your manager is a very specific type of relationship, based on task assignment and completion, and a shared view of what you're both working towards. Your mentor doesn't have the same amount riding on what you do, so will be able to give you some much-needed perspective on your work and your processes. I've found that when I talk things through during a mentoring session, we'll frequently 'trim the fat' around what I've been doing, and purely him coming at my work from a different angle and a different perspective forces me to get to the heart of what I mean much more quickly.

2. CHOICE: It might sound strange, but watching someone work, when you're not trying to get something done yourself - it's pretty fascinating. You'll find as you go through your career that you curate a lot of different viewpoints and tastes and perspectives as you go, which helps form your approach and your opinions in what you do. It's perfectly normal to be influenced in this way. Having a mentor, particularly if you have one in a different discipline to your own, gives you more exposure to different ways of working, of approaching problem solving, and strategic thinking. Just like the more you read can help broaden your vocabulary and make you a better writer, the more you work with different types of people, the more you can bring to the table when working on your next project.

3. RECOMMENDATIONS: Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and we've never seen that so prominently as in this age of social and digital. I'd say wait until you have a more familiar relationship with your mentor before you go adding them on LinkedIn, but these connections are powerful ones that will probably stay with you throughout your career - even if only in the form of a quick written endorsement.

4. TIME AWAY FROM YOUR DESK: I'm so grateful to have a scheme at work that allows me to see a mentor offsite, away from where I work every day. I'd suggest if you can, even if your mentor works in the same company as you, suggest going for coffee in the 'outside world'. The time away from the four walls you're usually in during work-time can do amazing things for your creativity and inspiration. If you have a commute to your mentor - even better. Use your train or bus ride to and from to do some reflecting and thinking time, and really process what you want to get out of your session, and what your key takeaways are, respectively.

5. THE HONEST TRUTH: A mentor will not be invested in whether you stay in the role you're currently in or not. They shouldn't be tied in any way to your successes or choices in what you do. And therefore, they'll be able to advise you objectively and help you to plan and make moves for you - based on what is both realistic and the right amount of ambitious. It shouldn't happen (but does, frequently) that your manager would stifle your growth or progress to keep you around and avoid the upheaval of rehiring. A mentor is a great sounding board for when you feel like it might be time to move on, move up, ask for more money, or renegotiate your job spec, and can give you solid, practical advice from experience on how to do this. 

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