A man in his twenties handing a globe of the world to a young boy

As a matter of fact you do need a mentor!

 Has your career plateaued?

•   Do you want to broaden your professional horizons?

•   Or, maybe everyone around you is moving up and you are stuck because you are unsure of how to take your career to the next level?

Waiting for management to recognize and reward your talents is likely to leave you well – waiting and disappointed.

To be clear it’s unlikely that senior management is purposefully neglecting to praise your work and reward your contributions. However, just like you and I, they are busy people with their own set of responsibilities, agendas and competing demands, which can leave little time to focus on YOUR professional development.

So, where does that leave you and your career goals?

One of the most powerful and efficient ways to advance your career is to seek out a mentor. Mentors can help you navigate organizational politics. Meaning, they can give you the scoop on who to work with and who to avoid. A connected mentor can introduce you to an influential network that can help get you noticed and fast track your career. Their years of experience and accumulated knowledge can propel you forward, as they teach you the tricks of the trade and about their time in the trenches.

However, what mentees often fail to recognize is that mentorship is a two-way street and requires that the relationship be mutually beneficial.

Here are three golden nuggets that will help enrich your relationship with your mentor and ensure that she wants to continue to invest in your development:

1. Give back

Chances are your mentor cares deeply about a few workplace causes. Maybe it’s corporate social responsibility, workforce diversity or work-life balance issues. Find an interesting article, blog post or report that speaks to these issues and pass them on to her.

Better yet, if she is personally involved in one of these causes support her in her efforts. For example, if she wants to promote a workplace that values diversity and inclusion help her find people who can come and speak to these issues at your firm. Organize a lunch and learn where those who share the same interests have an opportunity to discuss these issues and brainstorm solutions for your company. In other words, champion her cause.

2. Show your gratitude

Investing in another person’s development takes time and energy. Be humble. If you have requested assistance with a presentation that you are giving to senior management and your mentor suggests making your pitch more vivid with stories and anecdotes, don’t respond “that won’t work for this audience”. Instead, ask questions to better understand why such changes would be beneficial. Show your mentor that you can handle feedback and thank them for their time and guidance.

3. Recognize their talents, skills, and experience

While it is true that today’s workforce may be quite different than the workforce of your mentor’s younger years, it doesn’t mean that his knowledge is outdated or obsolete. Think of it this way, if you were experiencing debilitating headaches and needed to see a doctor chances are you would want to consult a person who has several years under her belt and specialized knowledge in her field. While your mentor may not know how to tweet or may think that a text that reads LOL stands for lots of love, do not demean her years of experience on the job.

Heed the advice of William James:

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” 

In our research on aging workers, people repeatedly told us they would gladly groom those who would assume their roles once they retired, as long as they show appreciation for their years of service.

As the boomers make their exit towards retirement, you will have the opportunity to rise through the ranks and take their positions. Be bold, be brave and take initiative. Do not wait to be granted a new title or promotion. Seek it out. Learn, appreciate and value the experience of your older colleagues. Make them an ally and have them champion you as the next in line to assume their position. And don’t forget – you must give them good reason to do so.

Good luck!