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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Totally Random Contact Who Can Boost Your Career and Make You Better at Your Job

If I asked you what field your ideal mentor is in, you’d probably respond, “mine.” And that makes sense. But you know what also makes sense? Looking outside your field.

I see your side eye.

I gave my journalist friend one recently when she told me that her most helpful mentor is a doctor. And that her favorite is a computer programmer. Random, I thought—until she explained to me why knowing someone in another field can actually be amazing. And trust me, once you hear these three specific benefits, you’re going to want to find your own “random” mentor right away.

1. They Can Give You Perspective

When you’re stuck inside of an industry bubble, it can be difficult to see, or even care, what’s going on outside of that. However, by being aware of other professions and the challenges they face, you’ll not only get perspective—but also insight into how much different careers (and their skill sets) overlap.

Also, coming from different backgrounds offers the chance to get a unique perspective on an issue (especially one caught in the echo chamber of your own industry). For example, my journalist friend talked to her doctor mentor about an article she was writing about healthcare. Not surprisingly, the doctor had a wildly different view of how to cover the story, which resulted in a much stronger finished product.

And who knows: You might find that another industry is more appealing after you learn more about it.

2. They Can Help with Transferable Skills

They’re not called “transferable skills” for nothing. In fact, my friend credits her doctor mentor for what she knows about customer service. Over time, she’s given her plenty of pointers on how she deals with annoying or angry patients, as well as their frustrated families. My friend, in turn, uses this information to work more effectively with difficult editors and article sources. See! These are the same skills, just applied to different groups of people under different circumstances.

3. They Can Introduce You to Brand New Networks

You know how you know people who work in different fields? So does your mentor! For example: It turns out, the doctor’s college roommate is a well-known journalist, and she was able to make an introduction for my friend. Small world, right? Never underestimate who someone knows just because of his or her profession. Not to mention, traveling in the same networks can get repetitive and stale. Let’s get some new blood in there!

Not sure where to start when finding mentors in other industries? Reach out to family members, friends, and alumni networks and ask for introductions to people who are just as motivated and ambitious as you. If nothing else, you’ll meet a few new awesome people.

Photo of coffee drinks courtesy of Shutterstock.