The Korea Herald


[Career Compass] Mentor is invaluable asset. Get one, or more

By Korea Herald

Published : March 14, 2024 - 16:47

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Is having a mentor a good idea? I want to try it but don’t know much about how the relationship works. Where do I find a good mentor, and what do I discuss with the mentor?

Yes, having a mentor is an invaluable asset. A mentor is hugely beneficial for both professional and personal growth. Think of a mentor as an advisor, a supporter and a confidant. Mentors lend their ears, share their experiences and offer wisdom to help you overcome challenges and achieve your goals.

However, like all relationships, you must put time and effort into making it work and getting the most out of it. It is an active relationship where you take the lead as the mentee.

Your choice of a mentor depends on your needs and goals. For someone new to the mentor-mentee relationship, a person one-level your senior in the company is your “go-to.” Any of your past managers is also a safe and practical choice as they would already know you well and you can skip the rapport-building process.

It is essential to choose someone whom you trust and respect. This will help you be open and honest with the mentor. Some female mentees seek only female mentors, but I have seen female and male mentors work equally well, and many female mentees appreciated the diverse perspectives from the male mentors, so please be open.

Moreover, as you progress, do consider having more than one mentor. This allows you to seek advice from a mentor who has more relevant experience to your specific issue, and you get to benefit from diverse perspectives.

What are some good topics to discuss?

Any topic that is important to you can be discussed. Career path decisions are among the top topics. When I was a marketing director in Korea, my CEO offered me a global leadership role overseeing new product innovation and brand building for all emerging markets worldwide. It was an incredible offer, but it was a field completely new to me and it meant I would have to relocate to Singapore and be separated from my family. Sensing my hesitation and concern, he asked me to take time and consult with my mentors.

One mentor pointed out how this would be a critical experience to becoming a global leader and explained the skills I would gain from the experience. Another mentor advised me to leverage the company’s split family support system.

Thanks to my mentors, I took the role and it was one of the best decisions I have made.

Skills and personal development are also great topics to discuss with a mentor, especially when you are starting at a new position. You can ask about how to make a jump start in the new role. Other popular topics are organization and relationship issues at work, such as problems with the boss or team members you struggle with. Your mentor can offer not only advice but also feedback on your behavior that needs changing in a safe mentor-mentee environment.

So, are you ready to get started?

Mentoring is a personal investment, so take the lead. Proactively search for the right mentor and lead the conversation. Do actively listen, reflect and ask questions. If you don’t agree with the mentor, that is okay, too. Just be honest and share the reasons.

Remember your mentor is there to help you and to see you develop an excellent professional career and a happy personal life. Embrace the opportunity and seize the benefits mentors can offer.

Kim Jooyoun, an independent board member at SK Innovation and a former CEO at P&G, answers questions on careers and multinational companies. She can be reached at -- Ed.