A burgeoning body of research shows that having mentors can significantly impact your career for the better. While hard work reigns supreme, it's no secret that having people behind you and beside you plays a role in your success. Establishing rapport with senior staff who may become "sponsors" is one of the most important contributors to career advancement, after all.
According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, women with sponsors are more likely to earn challenging assignments and raises and to say they are satisfied with their career progress. These types of mentors in the workplace may also provide you valuable candid feedback, according to research by the nonprofit Lean In.
But your career mentor doesn't have to be a higher-up at your company. Rather, there are tons of non-traditional mentors who can positively affect your career. The next time you need feedback, advice or a morale boost, consider turning to one of these seven people.
1. Your parent
Your parents are often your biggest supporters. While they may offer you biased advice, they are likely to offer you honest advice. If you were born to hardworking parents, learning lessons from them and hearing their own career stories may inspire you.
2. A college professor
College professors aren't only there to teach you what you need to know to pass your class and graduate from school. No, college professors are often the people who get you hooked on a certain field of study that you may turn into a career in the first place. Consider the person who introduced you to your career — perhaps it was that English professor or the organizational theory in business professor or the psychology professor or the statistics professor. Your professor has studied the field well enough that they're able to teach it to people like you so, if there's anyone who can give you advice for a future in this career, it's them.
3. An older sibling
An older sibling may be very similar to you — they've likely had the same upbringing and understand you well because they've know you your whole life. Unlike your parents, they're probably less worried about hurting your feelings or giving you too tough of love. That's why talking to an older sibling about your career can be helpful. They've been in your shoes, they get you, and they may be able to help guide you.
4. A similar colleague
Talking to a colleague in your field can be hugely inspiring. This person is in the same boat as you, so it can be a great person with whom to bounce ideas around. You can take classes together, attend networking events together and share your similar goals, visions, worries and more together.
5. Your therapist
Your therapist can help you unpack whatever it is that may be holding you back from achieving your career goals. Sure, they can't help you land a job or get a promotion, but they can help you prepare yourself to arrive in every moment with the utmost confidence and readiness to take on whatever life throws your way.
6. A total stranger
A total stranger may shockingly motivate you. Maybe you see someone busking on the street who's a phenomenal performer, or maybe you meet someone in the grocery store check-out line who tells you about their job that seems like a dream. You never know who you might meet that can instill inspiration in you and light a fire under you to get out there and chase your own career dreams.
7. Your best friend
Your best friend knows you better than you know yourself sometimes. While seeking career advice from them might be difficult, since they'll likely be biased and just want to see you happy (and maybe selfishly more available!), they're your cheerleader. Your best friend is your best friend because of the qualities about you they love, and they can help you to recognize all of those strengths of yours so you can then hone in on them when you're in a professional environment, as well.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.