AS more organisations around the world implement mentoring programmes, perhaps you should look at the benefits of having a mentor yourself, and find out how you can build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Why have a mentor?

There are many benefits to having a mentor. The value of a mentor is that whatever you are facing, your mentor will probably have been there before you.

He can give you advice based on his experience. This means you are benefiting from the wisdom of someone who has probably faced the same issues that you have, many times over.

Finding out how your mentor dealt with a situation, and why he acted in the way he did can help you make decisions for yourself. A mentor will provide you with an independent opinion that you can use as a measuring stick when you're faced with a difficult situation. He can also help to boost your confidence and help you avoid mistakes.

Having a mentor will help boost your career progression in a number of ways. Mentors can advise you in making decisions as your progress in your career and show you opportunities you may not previously have considered, or had access to.

Mentors are able to serve as a reference to building your network, and perhaps even guide you to attain roles that will enable you to rise to higher levels within the organisation.

How do I choose a mentor?

A mentor can be someone within your company but it may be preferable if he works outside your department or is someone in a similar area at another company.

You should be able to trust your mentor, and consider him to be a good communicator whom you feel comfortable talking to. Ideally, your mentor has been successful in this career, but more importantly, he is your idea of success. He will likely be one who already has the type of job you aspire to have one day.

What's in it for the mentor?

A good mentor believes in and has a commitment to helping people develop in their career. A mentor gets a sense of fulfilment from the relationship with a junior person and understands it as an opportunity to develop his own guiding skills. An older, more experienced mentor will also benefit from getting newer ideas from his "mentee".

How do I ask?

Many companies are now initiating mentoring programmes for their staff. If your company has such a programme, approach your HR department to get on board.

If your company doesn't run a mentoring programme, don't be afraid to request mentoring support, or suggest that a programme be started. Your company could also establish external mentoring services.

If your company is unable to help you, do not despair. Finding a mentor on your own will maximise your chances of finding the best person for the job! Consider what you are looking for in a mentor and then approach the person of your choice. He or she is most likely to be flattered and unlikely to turn you down.

Building the relationship

Once you have found your mentor, the next step is for you both to discuss your expectations and what you hope to achieve from the relationship. You need to be open to learning, have a good understanding of yourself and a desire to achieve.

The rewards of a mentoring relationship are too great to ignore. Sometimes, it is just a matter of a natural progression in a bond with a senior colleague at work or an industry contact, or it may be a relationship that you have to actively pursue.

Regardless of how you found your mentor, the benefits are many. You will have an experienced sounding board to assist you through tough times and someone to celebrate your achievements.

No matter what the challenge, your mentor will understand what you are going through and be ready to guide you.