A good career mentor will set the stage for your future career development.

In Asia’s highly competitive workplace, quality relationships can play just as much a role in career success as strong technical skills. And when it comes to mutually beneficial relationships, it’s hard to beat the advantages that professional mentoring can bring.

Connecting with a personal mentor provides a valuable career enriching opportunity to tap into new ideas and insights from someone who has already faced and overcome similar obstacles. Professional mentors can also provide independent feedback and alert you to possible career pitfalls to avoid, based upon their own experience.

Quite simply, mentoring allows you to learn from the best, but it is important to find an individual whom you respect and admire. Fortunately, there are multiple avenues available to connect with potential mentors where you are:

Corporate mentoring programs

Your current workplace can be a good starting point in the process of tracking down a suitable mentor. Businesses are increasingly becoming aware that mentoring doesn’t just have the potential to boost productivity, it can also play a key role in staff retention.

If your employer is unconvinced about pairing senior executives with up-and-coming talent like yourself, it may be worth pointing out that mentoring is very much a two-way street. A 2013 study reported in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found mentors benefit from the process as much as their protégés – enjoying increased job satisfaction and a greater sense of commitment to their employer.

Tracking down an independent mentor

Connecting with a mentor not aligned with your current employer or industry sector can provide the benefit of diverse experience.  If that’s what you’re looking for, professional bodies, industry associations and various independent organisations can put you in touch with possible mentors. You may also have someone in mind from your own network of contacts or be able to find a suitable mentor through channels like LinkedIn.

Know what you hope to gain

To maximise the benefits of mentoring, it pays to think about what you are hoping to gain from the experience. You may be returning to the workforce after a prolonged absence; or hoping to achieve specific career goals. Perhaps you’re looking for stimulation to climb out of a workplace rut.

Knowing your goals can help you pinpoint the mentor with the most suitable track record or skills rather than assuming the person with the most impressive CV is the ideal mentor.

Keep it professional

As career mentoring is fundamentally a work-based relationship, aim to adopt a professional approach. You and your mentor are both busy people and time is precious. So set clear guidelines from the outset on how often you will meet and how long each mentoring session will last.

Always provide a rundown of issues you’d like to discuss prior to face to face meetings. This way conversations can remain structured and productive.

Know when to end the relationship

At some stage you may feel it is time to move on from a particular mentoring relationship. That’s a natural part of career progression, and if this happens to you, be prepared to close the mentoring arrangement with an open discussion rather than simply letting the relationship whither on the vine.

As you progress through your own career, consider becoming a career mentor to others. It’s an opportunity to ‘give back’, strengthen your interpersonal skills and re-energise your own career.