The Difference a Mentor Could Make in Your Career
Why and where to find one, and how to make the most of the relationship.
At Spark, one of the things we hear repeatedly from Medical Aesthetics professionals is how important having a mentor was to their careers. No matter what professional setting you work in or what level of success you've achieved—you may benefit from a mentor. Whether you're looking to advance in your current setting or you're seeking a career change, a mentor could be an invaluable resource.
A recent university study of 3,000 full-time employed Americans showed that more than two-thirds of professionals believe that having a mentor is important, yet less than half actually have one.1
Especially in the dynamic, constantly changing field of Medical Aesthetics, where, in addition to learning about new products and techniques, it may give you an advantage to be savvy about marketing yourself, managing your reputation, and building a career.
Three reasons a mentor may make a meaningful difference in your career:
1. Good mentors may help you set meaningful goals. In the field of Medical Aesthetics, success does not happen by accident. A good mentor who is established and knowledgeable in your specific area of interest may help you set and achieve goals that are relevant to your profession. Perhaps it's learning more about a particular procedure or category of products (for example, dermal fillers for lips).
2. Get the skills that weren't offered with your formal education. To pursue success in this field, lifelong learning may help. Sometimes, all of the essential lessons aren't taught in academic or skills-based training settings. A mentor can help you address gaps in your training: for example, you may have a solid understanding of anatomy, but you may not have mastered the skill of making Aesthetic recommendations. A mentor can also help you become a more well-rounded professional, such as directing you to resources that can help improve your business acumen or social media savvy.
3. A mentor may be able to help open doors for you throughout your career, even if you're already successful. This is one of the reasons why many professionals look for mentors throughout their careers. A mentor can alert you to opportunities you may not have otherwise known about—everything from helping you find a new job or additional clients to connecting you with other professionals.
It's essential to choose the right mentor as being aligned with a well-respected professional may help you gain access to resources that might be closed off to you in a highly competitive field.2
What to look for in a mentor.
You may find the most straightforward approach to choosing a mentor is to look at the professionals in your orbit that you respect and admire, and seek out someone who has the kind of career you'd like to have, too.
While it is helpful to find a professional who understands the unique demands of the field of Medical Aesthetics, the right mentor isn't necessarily the one who's most famous, accomplished, successful, or respected. It's the one who can help you develop the skills you may be missing to advance as a professional.
Coffee entrepreneur Raj Jana praised the virtues of working with a mentor who’s nothing like you. "Fight the urge to gravitate toward people like you and people you see yourself in."3 Jana goes on to say that working with unexpected mentors can broaden your perspective and expose blind spots such as "…a lack of knowledge in a key aspect of your industry, a communication tactic that isn't working for you, or a product consideration you simply can't see yourself…openly seek out someone with a different viewpoint or background."3
Keep in mind that while you shouldn't be looking for the same qualities in a mentor as you would in a friend, you do need to be able to speak openly and honestly with them—and the inverse is also true: you have to be willing to listen, and be responsive to, their feedback. As long as mutual trust and respect are there, communication can be built.
How to find a mentor.
One place to start is by looking at your existing network, whether it's the professionals you come into contact with regularly or those you're connected with via sites like LinkedIn® or Doximity®. You can also ask for recommendations.
If you're not already doing so, networking can help you find a mentor, and it's an essential skill that can boost your career in so many ways. Don't stop by simply connecting with those in your immediate circle: push yourself out of your comfort zone. And networking is a two-way street: the article “Learn to Love Networking” published in the Harvard Business Review recommends thinking about what value you can bring to a new relationship.4 Even if you're just beginning your career, you probably have more to offer than you think. Your mentor is not expecting you to enrich their career; rather, they’re looking for respect, appreciation, and your commitment to providing their patients with the best possible experience.
Cold-calling potential mentors is likely to be a last resort, since it's usually easier to get a foot in the door when you have a recommendation or a colleague in common. If you go this route, be prepared: In addition to your resume or CV, work on your "elevator pitch," or a 30- to 60-second summary of your accomplishments, goals, and reasons why your target should be motivated to assist you.
When researching and then approaching a mentor, have specific goals or areas of focus in mind. In your conversations, make it clear that you're looking for specific kinds of expertise—you're not asking for someone to train you how to be a professional. This way, you'll be able to take the best advantage of your mentor's time. Corey L. Hartman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder and medical director of his practice in Homewood, Alabama, told Spark, "Come with a specific need and ask—those are the people who are successful."
Even though you should appear confident, it's important to show humility. Dermatologist Dr. Sabrina Fabi has this advice: "You're never too important to take any type of role or get any type of experience if this is something you're serious about." She also went on to share with Spark, "Of the people I've mentored, those who have remained humble, kind, and grateful have gotten the most from me. I don't have time to seek out mentees but those who come to me from that place—I will make time for them."
Don't let the fear of rejection dissuade you. In fact, think of this first challenge as an exercise that can help you grow professionally. By doing your research, making the connection, and pitching yourself, you are gaining communication skills and confidence. You may also need to be proactive in setting up additional meetings, since your mentor is likely very busy. Take initiative without being too pushy.
You can have more than one mentor.
When many of us think of the mentor-mentee relationship, we probably imagine a year-long relationship with the mentor helping to guide the mentee through professional challenges and into an enduring career. This may not always be the case.
For one thing, a mentorship is a relationship—and like any other relationship, it can have its ups and downs, or it just may not work. If you find yourself working with a mentor and aren't getting what you need out of it, you don't have to continue. It may even be a relief to your mentor; however, if you decide to terminate the relationship, be professional and empathetic about it. (No one likes to be fired.)
However, you may get to a point in your career where you need specialized knowledge and attention that your mentor may not be able to provide. Having multiple mentors throughout your career can help you keep your skillset full and fresh.
Even with all of the success Dr. Hartman has enjoyed, he continues to seek out mentors. "I have so many mentors; different reasons, different seasons," he told Spark. "There are going to be little things that come up where you want to have a community of people around. I don't know many successful people who can unabashedly say that they never had anybody to help them."
Study explores professional mentor-mentee relationships in 2019. Olivet Nazarene University. https://online.olivet.edu/research-statistics-on-professional-mentors. Accessed January 8, 2022
Henry-Noel N, Bishop M, Gwede CK, Petkova E, Szumacher E. Mentorship in Medicine and Other Health Professions. J Cancer Educ. 2019 Aug;34(4):629-637. doi: 10.1007/s13187-018-1360-6. PMID: 29691796. Accessed January 10, 2022
Jana R., 2021. Why your mentor should be nothing like you. Inc. https://www.inc.com/raj-jana/why-your-mentor-should-be-nothing-like-you.html. Accessed January 10, 2022
Gino F, Kouchaki M, Casciaro, T. Learn to Love Networking. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/05/learn-to-love-networking. Accessed January 10, 2022