Ah, the mentor. Someone who you trust, can share your ideas with. Someone who can keep you honest and give you a healthy dose of reality when needed. Mentors are critical to a flourishing professional life, especially during transitions like salary negotiations and promotions.
I am a huge proponent of mentors, and have made one of my 2018 goals to put 3-4 mentors in place for myself to help advance various areas of my personal and professional life. You don't have to find one silver bullet mentor to help you with every professional hurdle you may encounter. Rather, be strategic about who you enlist to help guide you through the various aspects of your professional life.
In the context of a salary/promotion negotiation, a mentor can help you understand organizational politics, give you advice on how to approach a negotiation, and may even be able to leverage some key relationships in your favor, to help you be seen and heard by the right people.
So, how do you choose a mentor?
Look for someone who can help you through the next 12- to 18-months of your career development. The mentor you select today does not have to be the mentor you will have 5 years from now. In many ways, it's preferable for your mentor to change as your needs from them evolve. In the context of salary or promotion negotiation, you're looking for a mentor who can provide you with some market/organizational intelligence and also help you realistically approach your negotiation process. They will need to be comfortable providing you honest, candid feedback.
Find someone with relative objectivity to your professional situation. In the context of salary or promotion negotiation, it can be preferable to find a mentor who has some distance from your role. This is to help keep things honest, and to keep there from being awkward situations for your mentor (or worse, situations where you're competing with one another). It's not that someone close to you can't help you, but you may be more likely to get the best advice and feedback from someone who is relatively unaffected by however the situation pans out.
Choose a mentor willing to challenge you. Negotiation is a difficult process. A great way to prepare for a challenging situation is to, well, practice being challenged. Ideally you would find a mentor who will happily play this role for you, knowing that it will pay off when you're able to rock a negotiation process. Find someone who's willing to ask you probing questions about why you think you're worth your requested salary, who will play out typical scenarios you might encounter in a negotiation, and who will give you honest feedback about where you trip up. The goal of this mentorship is to help you make an advancement in your career; don't be afraid to fail in the safe space your mentor provides. Fail quickly, learn quickly, advance quickly.
Have you had an experience with a professional mentor, either within or outside the context of a salary negotiation? Tell us about it in the comments!