Nov. 21, 2022
The virtual world is growing faster than ever before, and businesses are taking note.
As of September 2022, 17.9% of people are now remote working in the US, a number equal to around 27.6 million people, which has tripled since 2019. This number is only set to increase, especially as the remote working culture grows and the technology surrounding it advances.
And as more people become comfortable with the idea of working from anywhere, it's not just traditional jobs that are moving online—the virtual mentor trend is growing in popularity across all industries.
So what is a virtual mentor, and why are they becoming so popular?
More importantly, what can they do for you, and how can they help you take your professional or personal life to the next level?
This ultimate guide details everything you need to know.
A virtual mentor is simply a mentor who you communicate with online.
This could be over email, video calls, or through social media. Many people are turning to virtual mentors for professional development advice, but they can also be helpful for personal and self-development and growth.
In today's remote working world, people are connecting from anywhere in the world in real-time, meaning that you don't need to be with someone physically to have a detailed conversation, work on projects, talk about growth, or set goals.
Virtual mentors can be provided by a company, as they could be with a traditional mentorship program, or an individual, such as yourself, may seek out a mentor to guide and coach for whatever professional goals you have in mind.
There are so many reasons why virtual mentors are becoming as popular as they are, to the point where it's near limitless.
Previously, you would only ever have access to mentors in your area. These could be people within the business you're working in or even just restricted to your department.
Nowadays, the world is your oyster. You can connect with people anywhere in the world, in any industry or business, on any platform. If you think there's someone specifically that could benefit you, the chances are you'd be able to get in touch with them.
Say you want a mentor who's a conversational AI researcher for companies like Amazon and Oxford University, holding over 15 years of experience.
Through virtual mentoring, you can connect with them.
What about the ability to ask the project manager at Microsoft with six years of experience about what direction you can take your career and how you can get to where you want to be?
All possible through virtual mentoring.
But having access to previously closed-off mentors is only the tip of the iceberg regarding virtual mentoring.
Having that worldwide access also means they can offer a different perspective. This is especially beneficial if your virtual mentor is based in another country or industry to you. They can provide valuable insights and a new perspective on things that you might not be able to get from someone in your immediate circle.
Another big attraction is the accessibility and flexibility on offer, which translates as being able to communicate with your virtual mentor on your own time from anywhere in the world.
Many mentors will provide regular 1-on-1 call opportunities, plus the ability to message via text, email, or dedicated chat channels, like IM or Slack.
And on top of all this, you get access to a traditional mentor's benefits. Virtual mentors will help to hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
It's easy to make excuses or procrastinate when you're working on personal development goals by yourself, but a virtual mentor will help to keep you on track. They can also offer guidance, support, and advice when needed.
All in all, virtual mentors offer a lot of benefits and can be a valuable addition to your self-development journey.
Of course, as with anything, there are also a few challenges that come with virtual mentorship.
Mainly, you'll need to consider how you will build trust and rapport with your mentor. This can be difficult face-to-face, so having a screen between you can add to the issue. It's tough but not impossible and takes time, patience, and investment from both the mentor and the mentee.
It's important to remember that virtual mentors are still people, and it takes time to build trust with anyone.
Another challenge is making sure you're both on the same page.
This is especially important when it comes to setting goals and expectations. It's easy to miscommunicate online, so make sure you're both clear about what you want to achieve and what your virtual mentor can do for you.
It pays to take time to find a mentor that will work in the way that you work best. Even if your chosen mentor is in a good position, somewhere you want to be, if they push you too hard and don't provide the style of approaching things you want, the mentorship process could do more harm than good.
Of course, this is a challenge that comes with both physical and virtual mentors. However, it can be a little harder to see whether you'll get on with someone through a screen. This means when you're approaching virtual mentors, you'll simply want to be a little more mindful of who you're choosing and whether you're a suitable fit for one another.
Finally, virtual mentorship is not for everyone.
If you prefer the personal touch and connection that comes with meeting face-to-face and likes to build relationships in person, virtual mentorship may not be for you.
Of course, we're focusing on the challenges on the virtual mentee side. It's also important to consider the challenges that virtual mentors face.
Just like virtual mentees, virtual mentors need to build trust and rapport with their mentees. They also need to manage expectations and make sure they're providing value. And on top of all this, they must be comfortable communicating online and using technology.
So, there are challenges on both sides. But virtual mentorship is still a valuable experience for many people.
There are some clear pros and cons to virtual mentorship, but the truth is, overcoming these obstacles is easier than you may think. Simply follow these steps, and you can ensure that virtual mentorship works for you.
This might take some time, but finding someone you feel comfortable with is worth it. When you're looking for a virtual mentor, make sure to do your research. Check out their website, read their blog, and see if they have any testimonials from previous mentees.
Once you've found a virtual mentor, the next step is to build trust and rapport. This takes time, so be patient. Start by sharing your goals and expectations with your virtual mentor. Then, keep the lines of communication open.
Check in with your virtual mentor regularly, and let them know how you're doing. For the best experience, also make time to talk about and grow your personal relationship.
Having goals is crucial for both you and your mentor, as they will define the direction you want your journey to take. Ideally, these will be SMART goals, giving you clear notions of what you're focusing on and how you can evaluate your progress.
Without goals, you won't see the tangible results of your journey, and you won't be able to tweak as you go to achieve the highest levels of success. Goals are also essential for boosting motivation and engagement and reducing procrastination.
Finally, ensure you're both on the same page when setting goals and expectations and basically working on any aspect of the process.
Again, this takes time and patience. But if you're clear about what you want to achieve, it will be easier to make virtual mentorship work for you.
If you're thinking about using a virtual mentor or you've already started the process, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.
The first is to be clear about what you want to achieve. What are your goals? What do you hope to get out of the virtual mentorship relationship? Be as specific as possible so you can communicate this to your virtual mentor and hold yourself accountable.
Next, do your research.
There are a lot of virtual mentors out there, so take some time to find one that's a good fit for you. Look at their experience and what they can offer, and make sure they're someone you feel comfortable working with.
Finally, be prepared to put in the work.
Virtual mentorship is not a quick fix, and it takes time and effort to get the most out of it. Be patient, persistent, and willing to invest the time and energy into making it work for you.
It's crucial you take the time to find the right virtual mentor for your needs. After all, this relationship will have a big impact on your career.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're looking for a virtual mentor.
First, consider what you want to achieve.
Take your goals, your ideal direction, and everything we've discussed already, and clearly state what you hope to get out of the virtual mentorship relationship.
Once you know this, you can start to look for virtual mentors who can help you achieve these things.
Next, consider their experience.
As you research, start making a list of potential mentors you'd love to work with and break them down. Define the pros and cons of each one, and highlight why or how you would work with a virtual mentor and why you wouldn't.
What have they accomplished in their career?
What do they know that you don't?
What can they bring to the table?
What style of mentorship do they offer?
Can they provide you with networking opportunities?
What kind of availability do they offer?
Look for virtual mentors who have the knowledge and experience you need to reach your goals.
Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Have an initial meeting (many mentors will offer this), and be conscious of whether you're a good fit and get on, both professionally and personally.
After all, this is a relationship, and you must feel comfortable communicating with your virtual mentor. Do they have a style that works for you? Do they make you feel at ease?
You'll know once you've found the mentor you want to work with, and so will begin your journey to where you want to go.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when you're looking for a virtual mentor. If you take the time to find the right person, you'll be setting yourself up for success in the best possible way.
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