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Solo HR pros: Seek a mentor to advance your career

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in HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

You’re the entire HR department and barely have time to keep up with basic daily duties. There’s precious little time to think strategically, develop new initiatives and stay current on HR trends.

Plus, you feel professionally isolated because you spend so little time talking to other HR professionals.

Here’s one way to come out of the HR wilderness: Find an HR mentor who will offer advice in areas where you need the most help.

Most solo HR pros don’t create mentoring relationships because they never consider it, don’t know how to create one or can’t spare the time. Make the time. It’s worth the effort.

“You should have many mentors over the course of a career because you need different types of expertise as you go along,” says Keith Greene, the VP of member relations at the Society for Human Resource Management. “I’ve had mentors most of my career and still have them now.”

Finding and screening mentors

Take the following steps to find and screen a mentor.

1. First, do a bit of self-evaluation. Ask yourself why you want a mentor:

  • To expand your knowledge or learn a specific skill? This may mean learning about an unfamiliar job, such as finance or marketing, or getting a broader view of the company.
  • To develop your weaker side? If you’re quiet and reserved, spend time with an extrovert. If you’re a creative, big-picture thinker, learn from someone who is good with data and details.
  • To gain career guidance? If you want to move into a different type of work, consult with people in your own company who fill similar roles.

2. Seek out a truth-speaker. Don’t pick a current friend as a mentor.

You want to learn and grow, so you need someone willing to honestly assess your strengths and development needs.

Meet with potential mentors and explain what kind of knowledge you’re seeking. Ask how much time the person can dedicate to mentoring. Start slowly. 

3. Continuously reassess the relationship. If a mentor isn’t working out, address the situation straightforwardly.

Here’s what Keith Greene said to a mentor who couldn’t devote enough time to Greene due to his own successful career: “‘I’m concerned that perhaps my needs as a protégé are greater than your availability as a mentor.’ I never got any pushback. They said, ‘You’re right. I wish I could give more time, but I can’t.’”

4. Know when it’s over. Some mentoring relationships are time-limited. When you’ve reached your destination, it’s OK to shift that mentor-protégé relationship to a more equal one.

If a mentor isn’t providing the quality or quantity of professional advice you need, Greene advises you say something like: “What I’d like to do is to stay in touch, but I feel I need to establish other mentoring relationships.” 

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