As we progress in our careers, it's natural to start to feel like we really know what we're doing, and have our jobs down pat. But regardless of what career level you're at, it always pays to have someone to turn to for advice and insight.

Enter the mentor. Though some companies today offer official mentoring programs, often, it's on you to seek out a mentor you can learn from and turn to for guidance as needed. Your mentor doesn't necessarily need to work for the same company you do, and finding one may be a matter of reaching out to your network of contacts and searching for takers. But once you do find that mentor, you stand to benefit in a number of ways. Here are just a few.

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1. You'll have a chance to learn new skills

Maybe you majored in journalism in college, and picked up some skills over the course of your studies. Be that as it may, you stand to learn a whole lot more from someone who's been in the trenches a decade longer than you. One major reason to seek out a mentor is that you'll get a chance to learn the sort of skills you can really only develop with experience and time. If you're thinking of furthering your education to grow your career, you might sink some time into finding a mentor before working on applications. After all, there are certain things you just can't learn in a classroom.

2. You'll have a sounding board in the face of challenges

We all encounter our fair share of challenges at work, whether it's managing deadlines or dealing with assignments that are tough to crack. The beauty of having a mentor is that you'll have someone to bounce ideas off, and who might be in a position to help you come up with solutions when the going gets tough. Remember, if you find the right mentor, chances are he or she will have once been in your position, which means you're apt to get some solid advice.

3. You'll have someone to hold you accountable

When you're doing the same job for months or years on end, it's easy to grow complacent or get stuck in a rut. The benefit of having a mentor is that you'll have someone to check in with regularly on your career progress, which will help you keep striving to do better. You might even ask your mentor to help you set specific goals and map out a plan to get there -- goals that can help you grow in your career and help you avoid getting stuck in a dead-end situation.

4. You'll get career guidance -- for free

Countless workers enlist the help of career counselors when they find themselves lost and in need of guidance. But if there's one downside to working with a professional counselor, it's the money you might end up spending. With a mentor, however, you might get similar advice on an ongoing basis, and generally, all it'll cost you is a heartfelt "thank you."

There's a lot to be gained by working with a mentor, so if your company offers such a program, it pays to sign up. And if not, talk to your employer about instituting such a program, and pledge to pay it forward by becoming a mentor yourself -- if not immediately, then once you've advanced in your career. It's a great way to not only share your knowledge, but learn a thing or two along the way.

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