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If you work remotely, you need to find a good mentor

After a year and half of social distancing and a lack of casual interactions, mentors have become even more important.

If you work remotely, you need to find a good mentor
[Photo: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels]
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Beginning a job remotely can be stressful. When your interactions with new colleagues are only happening through a screen, the process of getting close to others, and learning the best ways (and people) to help you do things often feels overwhelming.

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Many Gen Z workers are starting their first full-time jobs completely remotely. This means they’re often lacking the guidance and casual interactions that happen naturally in an office—experiences that are especially important for career development.

Research shows that mentors are not only helpful to new workers acclimating to a new organization, but also key to employees’ professional growth. After all, mentors are individuals who help you see the small victories (and failures) that can add up to success later on.

Gorick Ng, a Harvard career advisor and the author of The Unspoken Rules, says having a mentor is more and more important as we adapt to a remote structure. “There are simply too many unspoken rules in a new work environment for anyone to pick up through emails and video calls alone. You can either learn them [from a mentor], or stumble through it on your own.”

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Many younger workers say they would like a mentor figure at work. A recent study of 13 to 25 year olds by Springtide Research found that 82% of respondents would prefer to work for a boss who cares about them and can discuss issues beyond work, and 73% reported they were more motivated to perform at their jobs “when they [felt] their supervisor cares about them.”

So if you’re looking to find a mentor while working remotely, here’s what the experts say you should do:

1. Take initiative

In a time of social distancing and digital communication, it’s important as a new employee to grab any and all opportunities to connect, including company-sponsored mentorship programs. You can also reach out to people on your own. Make a calendar reminder for yourself to reach out to a few new people from your organization each week.

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When you’re doing this outreach, prioritize connecting with people you don’t naturally chat with during a normal workday. Interacting with a team member from a different department can offer you less obvious perspectives.

Another tactic is finding someone just a few steps ahead of you on the career ladder. “A mentor doesn’t even have to be someone high up,” says Ng. “Some of the most useful mentors are people who are just a step or two ahead of you because they were in your shoes not too long ago so know the latest and greatest around how to navigate your career.”

2. Don’t let rejection set you back

Just like in other personal relationships, there is a chance you may face rejection while searching for a mentor. Don’t let discouragement overwhelm you. Persistence is key, especially when you’re virtual and in-person connections are more challenging.

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“Whatever you do, don’t be devastated if they [give a] ‘no,’ whether verbally or non-verbally,” says Ng. “Like in your elementary school playground, not everyone will be your friend, and that’s OK.”

3. Recognize a good mentor match when you see it

When you do find someone that you hit it off with, make sure you hold onto this spark and follow up, follow up, and follow up. Like nonwork-related relationships, these sort of like-minded connections can be rare and eventually can become long-lasting friendships. “Keep introducing yourself to people; when you find someone you click with, keep them close,” says Ng.

About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur

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