As a young professional working in today’s economic climate, I have experienced the struggle to find my way on the career path I have chosen. This is a challenge that most people experience at some point in their career, and for many, it can be a disheartening hurdle to overcome. However, young professionals can open many doors for themselves by joining an association in their field. An association is conglomeration of professionals who have chosen similar or the same professions, so its membership may be the perfect place to find advice and guidance along one’s career path.

Every profession comes with a plethora of questions surrounding improvement and growth. There are many resources you can utilize to find answers to these questions, but one of the most valuable resources is mentorship. A mentor is someone who helps guide their pupil along their career path. This is someone to talk with about goals, ambitions, challenges, and hopes. Usually more experienced in their craft, a mentor can offer wisdom that they wish they knew when they first began in their profession.

Where to Find a Mentor

An inexperienced association member can look for guidance from more experienced members in their association. Follow your association on social media platforms and join online groups that connect members. Many associations that Strauss works alongside features members on social media. By engaging members in this way, associations are encouraging the membership to get to know one another.

Don’t wait for a mentor to come to you. Be proactive and seek out professionals that you respect and admire. Reach out and let them know who you are! Let them know how you learned about them and why you respect them. It never hurts to turn on the charm! You don’t have to unload all your questions right away, just let them know that you’re looking for guidance and you hope to learn something from them. Initially, ask if they have any starting advice for a young professional in the field. This will open a dialogue that you can return to when you need guidance.

One great way to make connections and get acquainted with experienced members of your association is to get involved with committees, regional chapters, and the national board of directors. Let the board know you are interested in getting involved and being active in the community. To learn more about what association leaders look for in volunteers, read Identifying and Mentoring Future Association Board Leaders.

What Makes a Great Mentor?

When seeking mentorship, it is important to look for someone whose values align with your own. You must ask yourself, ‘what do I wish to achieve in my career?’ Find people who have made similar achievements and look to them for advice. For association members, this is not so difficult, as you are among like-minded professionals who value their community. Many experienced members are excited at the prospect of passing on their wisdom to the next generation in their profession. Find someone who is open to sharing and willing to give back to their community.

A great mentor is patient and understanding. They have likely experienced the challenges of being a young professional in their field. Maybe they had a mentor in their youth, and they wish to pay that forward. Maybe they wish they had a mentor in their youth and want to provide that opportunity to someone else. A great mentor is giving and respectful. They should understand that their mentee is inexperienced and be kind in filling in the gaps in their experience.

Being a Good Mentee

In a healthy mentor-mentee relationship, respect goes both ways. Do not take advantage when an experienced individual offers their guidance. Be respectful of their time and energy. When it comes to association leaders, they are already volunteering their time to the whole association – on top of being a successful professional in their practice or profession. If they offer guidance, respect what they have the time and energy to give. For example, if an experienced volunteer leader seems overloaded, offer to help. Not only are you giving back to your mentor, but this is also a great way to indirectly learn from them.

To a certain extent, you must be your own mentor. Mentorship doesn’t have to be direct instructions and guidance from an individual. Be mindful and take notice of the actions of someone you respect and aspire to be like. When you find yourself among experienced professionals, you can be aware of what they have to offer without asking any direct questions.

Advice is just that – you can take it or leave it. If you disagree with a piece of advice, do not argue with your mentor. Learn to accept guidance and apply it in your own way. A mentee is not a carbon copy of the mentor. Recognize that your mentor may not have all the answers. They are not there to solve all your problems. These you must overcome in your own way – their guidance is just a piece of the puzzle that helps lift you over the hurdles.

Steps Along Your Career Path

Find a mentor who respects you and wants to help you find your way. Experienced professionals who have been association members for a long time are generally ones who hold an appreciation for their association and community. As a mentee, be a sponge: soak up all the information and guidance you can, and then retain that which will help you achieve your goals.

Read this article to learn more about Building and Maintaining Strong Relationships with Your Volunteers.