If you think about it, mentors, in a non-traditional sense, are ever-present in our lives.

Think of the first time you went to the gym. You probably had a personal trainer, were following directions from a workout video, or, at the very least, gym staff gave you advice. 

What about when you had relationship troubles? You talked it over with your friends. And when you had issues with a friend or a family member, you sought advice from those around you.

While people in our lives are not officially labelled as mentors, they play the role by guiding, supporting and encouraging you.

If we’re constantly seeking help and advice in our personal lives, why should it be any different at work?

Early on in my career, I grossly underestimated the value of having a mentor. It seemed like only C-suite executives had one. Little did I know that having a mentor could accelerate career progression.

As a woman in an industry where it often felt like the top seats were reserved for men, I found myself in a competitive rather than supportive environment. Interestingly, I’ve encountered women who were a lot more competitive than men, clearly thinking the seats were limited and they needed to do everything they could to protect theirs, and make sure another woman was not a threat.

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Self-doubt is always ready to creep in and it’s easier to question your achievements than to congratulate yourself.

This is especially true when you’re just starting out. You tend to question your capabilities, hesitate to voice your opinions, or ask for what you really want. And believe me, this doesn’t just apply to newcomers; even those in senior positions need support and guidance, someone to help them get out of their head (or their comfort zone), reframe situations and show a different perspective.

I was fortunate to find a mentor in Open Medical’s chief commercial officer, who was my line manager at the time. He saw the potential in me early on and pushed me to do things that I was more than capable of doing, but did not have the confidence to take on. He recognised my readiness for challenges and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone.

But mentorship is not a one-way street. Through my work, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing others’ growth and development which has been incredibly rewarding, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service and make an impact in the lives and careers of others. I gain as much from mentoring as my mentees do.

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So my advice is, if you don’t already have a mentor in your professional life, be proactively on the lookout for one, but keep these tips in mind:

1. Be open-minded. Don’t stick to a rigid set of criteria, like insisting they must work in your field or be in the same environment as you. My most impactful mentor was a man from a different cultural background.

2. The best mentorships happen naturally. Don’t force a connection; instead, take the time to understand the person. If your values align, mentorship will naturally form.

3. If you can’t find a mentor at your workplace, explore associations or organisations. There are countless opportunities out there, and you will find the right mentor for you. I would go as far as encouraging you to have two!

Find your cheerleader – you’ll be amazed by the impact a mentor can have on both your personal and professional growth.

Daria Markova is head of marketing/sustainability lead at Open Medical

Open Medical