The mentor you choose should also have a passion for coaching/teaching. "Not all leaders or teachers are great mentors, but all great mentors find ways to teach and inspire, without criticism, and are always supportive," Spano says. When choosing a mentor, look for those qualities, but then observe the person for a while and see if these characteristics stand up.
How Can a Mentor Help Your IT Career?
Having a mentor is important regardless of your age or your position, according to Lodhi,. "Everyone needs someone from the outside to share the insight and experiences to help better ourselves. Mentors can help you establish the 'big picture'," says Lodhi.
According to Spano, the only way to truly enjoy life and be productive is to continuously learn. "The secret, he says, is to "learn the right things at the right time, hence the need for a mentor. "
Having a mentor isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. "It's wonderful if you can't find that one person, but I know a lot of people who have a few [mentors]," says Tracey Cashman, partner and general manager in information technology with WinterWyman, an IT staffing firm that services companies in the Northeast. For example, you may have a mentor for technology questions, who you could ask what types of technologies are hot and another mentor who is an expert with management issues.
Another example may include an IT pro who has worked in IT infrastructure for several years, but wants to move into development. Finding a mentor with strong programming skills could offer insight into what programming languages the company is investing in or what certifications or courses you should take to become more relevant to the company's needs.
"It is critically important to have a mentor in the area of IT. Having a mentor in this environment allows you to see where your business is heading and then you can begin to build your skills and expertise in the areas they will most need you in the coming years," says Spano.
Having a senior person in your company mentor you can really help open doors, whether it's insight into what type of training would be most beneficial to you or more mundane items like how to deal with difficult clients or vendors to vouching for your skills when a new position opens up. "Most of my promotions were a result of mentoring," says Lodhi.
Choosing an IT Mentor
Choosing a mentor is not something to be taken lightly. "A good mentor can be a lifelong asset, and choosing the wrong one wastes both of your time," says Spano. Not only does it need to be a person with the knowledge and skills to help propel your career forward, but you also need to have a certain chemistry with that person.