Typically, the first thing we’re told to do before getting a job or applying to graduate school is find a mentor. But what type of mentor should you look for?
Popular culture often paints a mentor as a very specific type of figure who takes you under their wing, gives you advice, shows you what to look out for, and introduces you to people you should know. And that’s certainly some of what they do in real life, too. But mentors come in all sorts of varieties, and they can be helpful no matter where you are in your career.
Whether you’re a brand new professional, someone who just changed paths, a seasoned vet with imposter syndrome, or anyone who has or wants a job or career, mentorships can ground you and fuel your passions. Here are seven types of mentors you should consider:
1. Traditional Mentor
A traditional mentor is someone who’s been in your field or industry for more than a few years, like a supervisor from a past job or internship or a professor who helped you navigate your way from school into the workforce. They might’ve had your current job back in the day or perhaps they’re in the role you hope to have in the future. A traditional mentorship is a tried-and-true choice because the mentor has usually navigated the same path you’re on right now.
2. Affinity-Based Mentor
An affinity-based mentorship grows from a place of commonality, often stemming from an underrepresented identity—whether it’s gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, or one of a myriad other characteristics. Not only does it benefit you and remind you that you’re not alone, but it can also lead to organizational or even industry-wide changes in policy or perception.
When you find an affinity-based mentor, remember you’re both complex. Just because you speak the same language or have the same speech impediment doesn’t mean you’ll be twins. But what counts is knowing someone out there has at least one thing in common with you, knows what it’s like, can share their experiences, and will listen empathetically to yours. This type of mentor can give you a blast of confidence and belonging that’ll keep you riding high through Friday.
3. Group Mentor
Group mentorship is often set up in cohorts. Think of a summer internship program where the class of interns has a seasoned professional leading a mentorship cohort that meets weekly for Q&As, discussions, and workshops over lunch.
You can learn a lot from the mentor, but you can also learn from your fellow mentees and build relationships with your peers. When someone brings up a problem they’re facing and gets advice, you can look for ways you can apply the same advice to your own headaches. And in some cases, you’ll find that you start turning directly to fellow mentees for suggestions and support.