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Characteristics of a Mentor - How to Find a Mentor to Help Grow Your Career

Develop Your Health Career by Choosing the Best Mentor for Your Career Role

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A mentor can help you set and achieve goals, avoid career mistakes, and navigate office politics or hospital bureaucracy.

Here a few tips on finding a mentor who can help you grow and develop as a healthcare professional.

  • A mentor should have experience in the field or specialty in which you work, or aspire to work.
    Obviously, a mentor who is experienced in the healthcare field is going to be able to assist you with more knowledge and expertise. A mentor should work in your type of role – for example, if you are a nurse, or aspiring nurse, you should choose an experienced, senior-level nurse to mentor you. New physicians or future physicians should find an experienced physician to mentor them, and so on.
  • Choose a mentor who is local or nearby, if possible, and ideally someone in your organization.
    Not only is it more convenient to have your mentor nearby, it also enables your mentor to guide you through situations that may be specific to your area, such as economical, political, or legal issues which may affect your role. For example, practice laws and clinical authority and autonomy vary from state to state for many mid-level providers. Additionally, insurance reimbursements vary, malpractice and tort laws are different, and licensing requirements for each state are different too for physicians and other medical providers.
  • Find a mentor who has a good balance of similarities and differences compared to your strengths and weaknesses.
    If you select a mentor who is a total opposite of yourself, you may find that it’s too difficult for you to relate to that person. Therefore, it could be challenging to follow their lead and guidance. On the other hand, if you choose a mentor who is exactly like you in every way, he or she may not be able to add as much to your existing skill set as someone whose strengths balance out your weak areas to help you grow.
  • Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. You don’t have to declare someone your mentor, or have them sign an agreement. A mentor can be someone who is a friend or co-worker, who happens to be in a professional position which lends itself to being your mentor. If the person is willing to answer questions, give advice, and lend a helping hand from time to time, you have yourself a mentor! That being said, a mentor should definitely be a willing participant. If you are not sure you may certainly ask your prospective mentor, by saying something such as, "Your career has been very successful, and I think I could learn a great deal from your experience. Would you mind if turn to you as a mentor and resource for answers to career-related questions or for problem-solving advice?"

How the Right Mentor May Help You Develop Your Career:
Once you find the best mentor, who is in the right professional role and who has the right charactoristics, here are a few ways a mentor may be able to assist you in developing and advancing your health career for optimum success:

  • Networking contacts - an experienced mentor will have accrued and collected a number of professional contacts in the healthcare field, which, could soon become your professional networking contacts!
  • Navigate politics and bureacracy - job titles tell you who has authority at any given organization, but a mentor can tell you who has the power. Politics are a part of any organization, and missteps can be costly. A mentor can also help promote you within the organization to key players who can help advance your career.
  • Learn what they didn't teach you in school - you have learned many theories, principles, and formulas. You may have even worked as an intern or resident, and treated many patients. But now that you're building your own professional career, there are many situations you will encounter that were not taught in school. A mentor can help fill in the blanks between theoretical knowledge and practical know-how.

How to Repay Your Mentor

Most successful, experienced professionals had mentors once themselves. Most mentors enjoy the intrinsic rewards of mentoring, and enjoy helping others. You can foster your mentor's enjoyment by thanking him or her frequently and showing your appreciation for the assistance. Most likely, if you work with your mentor, there will be plenty of opportunities to return a favor or even just take him or her out to lunch.

However, one of the best ways you can thank your mentor is to utilize their help, become very successful in the healthcare field, and then pay it forward to another newbie by mentoring an up-and-comer some day!

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