No matter what stage of our career we are at, we could all do with a mentor from time to time. A solid, charismatic, inspirational character who helps guide us through significant stages of our working lives and makes us want to become the best we possibly can at what we do.
When you are in an office as part of a tight knit team, it is easy to gravitate towards a reliable career mentor, but when you are either a freelancer or working from home in any capacity, it’s not quite that simple.
Although it may be tricky to make use of a reliable mentor when working from home, it can be done.
Before we go any further, let’s think about exactly what a mentor is and what it means to us - to help you, here is the official Oxford English dictionary definition of mentor:
noun. An experienced and trusted advisor
Although this definition is very short and to the point, it pretty much says it all - so no matter where you’re working, you need to think about this before you choose a mentor who is right for you and your needs.
If you are actually working for a company with an office and HQ but do work from home, it’s worth heading down there on a regular basis (perhaps once every two weeks) to get to know various individuals in the company. Establish personal contact with someone you’d like to use as your designated career mentor, clearly explain your situation and swap details with them - oh, and of course, let them know you’d like to seek their advice on work related matters.
If you are a freelancer working from home (or remotely) and aren’t officially attached to a fixed company or organisation, a little more leg work is required. In this case, you must network in order to find your career mentor - fire up the laptop and search for professional events and functions related to your job, go to seminars and when you do, talk to people. When you’ve found the right person, exchange details etc. - oh, and again, shortly after meeting, let them know you’d like to seek their advice on work related matters!
Once you’ve found your mentor and have got to know them a little better, it’s time to start really benefitting from their advice. Obviously when working from home, you can’t just swan up to your mentor every time you need their help, but we do have this little thing called technology - this means you can actually treat your situation as if you were in the office. What I mean by this is, use emails, social networks, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts (the list goes on…) etc. to your advantage when you do need to touch base…
From the outset, establish certain times of the day/week when it is suitable to get in touch with your mentor without disrupting their work and make sure you stick to those time slots. Also, pencil in a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with them via Skype or video chat to catch up and ask them any burning questions you might have. In addition to this, arrange a monthly lunch or drink with them where you can meet face to face and go through anything important.
Another thing to consider, is just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to just one mentor. It’s a free country and you can have several to suit all avenues of your career based needs - also, use the web. The web is a wonderful thing. There are so many inspirational people out there and the internet means that you don’t actually have to meet these people in order to benefit from their advice. For instance, if you’re a budding technology tycoon, watch a Steve Jobs seminar on YouTube or if you consider yourself to be the next George Orwell, read one of his archived interviews online - you’ll be inspired in no time.
Basically, the world is changing and more and more people are now trading in the office for something a little more flexible - but as I’ve said, doesn’t mean you can’t use a solid career mentor from time to time.