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What a mentor could mean for you and your London career (and how to find one)

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

Making a splash in the big city isn’t always easy. Due to the vast and competitive nature of this thriving metropolis, you’re bound to encounter a few obstacles on your journey to the top.

If you are to grow from a small fish in a big pond to a key player in the capital city, it certainly won’t hurt to have a big fish lead the way. After all, these waters have the potential for surprises.

Fortunately, sharks, strong currents and sea-mines can all be tactically avoided with the help of someone who’s been there, done that and got the t-shirt. For those who have just moved to London or those eager to take their career to the next level, a mentor can make all the difference.

New opportunities

It goes without saying that a strong and diverse professional network can open the door to opportunity. However, when you’re new to a city, diving headfirst into industry events can be a daunting prospect. It’s hard to get talking to a stranger, but being introduced to a key player via someone they already know and trust will enable you to make a name for yourself and unlock the gates to paths previously unexplored.

Having been in the industry for a significant amount of time, your mentor should have built a profile with a plethora of people who could be of value to your London career. In essence, building a relationship with a mentor within your chosen field can be a fast-track ticket to a list of new contacts, some of which may hold the key to your future.

Insider knowledge

No matter how much you have learned already, the insight that a well-seasoned expert can provide will be invaluable to your development – especially when it comes to making important decisions. Unsure of which company to choose when two job offers are on the table? Your mentor may be able to shed light on factors you wouldn’t have picked up from the interviews: staff turnover, company culture or their reputation as an employer, for example.

Alternatively, you may need advice on how best to upskill yourself to gain the competitive edge over fellow candidates in the London market: a mentor can usually offer tips and tricks to help you get ahead, providing tailored advice based on his or her personal experiences in the capital city.

Outsider perspective

If you’re trying to move forward in your career, you need to know exactly what might be holding you back in your climb to the top of the ladder. While it’s more than likely you have already identified a few areas for improvement, the biggest weaknesses are usually those we can’t see.

Having a mentor to help you acknowledge your shortcomings and assist you in eliminating them will not only enhance your employability, but further boost your chances of securing a promotion should the opportunity arise. Your relationship with your mentor should allow you to talk about your shortcomings more freely and comfortably than you could your manager; their outside perspective can highlight issues you weren’t aware of. Together, you can work to fine-tune your skill-set and bolster your professional reputation.

Finding a mentor

Whether you’re new to London or simply don’t have someone in your circle to look up to, there are plenty of ways to find a mentor in the capital city. The obvious route is through your existing network: don’t fret, this can also extend to social media. There’s no harm in connecting with a leader in your industry via LinkedIn and requesting a meeting over a coffee – if anything, they should take it as a compliment.

However, you’ll have to dip your toes into the water sooner or later: attending workshops, conferences and even just business breakfasts will allow you to meet people with the experience necessary to guide you through unchartered territory. With a mentor on hand for strategic advice, you’ll be riding the wave of success in no time.

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