As a professional navigating the corporate world, the importance of having mentors can’t be understated. Unfortunately, it is one of the most easily overlooked pieces of career management. Most of us are so busy being high performers that we forget the value of wisdom offered by those who’ve already been there and those who can guide us in ways we didn’t consider.
As a korporate klimber, you are not just a professional. You are a brand. You’re not just a businessman. YOU are a business. Man!
All successful and long-lasting businesses have a board of directors. Your mentors are your personal board of directors who are there to help you manage your brand (and your career). Having a good group of mentors is helpful when you come across challenges at work or are faced with important career decisions and when you need someone’s unbiased point of view.
Mentors help fill your knowledge gaps and provide opportunities to help your professional growth. A good mentor will make it comfortable for you to let down your guard, share your insecurities, and ask the ‘stupid’ questions we all have sometimes. A good mentor is also honest and unafraid to tell you hard truths about yourself and your work. She helps you navigate the politics of your organization or profession, and avoid the land mines. She pushes you to take risks and aim higher, and advocates for you when you’re not there.
As you seek to develop the mentor relationship here are some basics to consider
- Don’t force it. But be persistent in showing continued interest in and respect for the mentor’s opinions
- Cultivate more than one mentor
- Look for mentors both in your department and outside
- Look for mentors both inside your company and outside
- Mentors don’t have to be in the same profession or field as you. Build relationships with people from different backgrounds
- Don’t only focus on mentors that are older than you. Instead, put age aside and look for people who are successful in their fields and know more than you
- Find someone you respect and someone who respects you back. The ultra popular frat brother who gave you wedgies but was soooo cool, should not be on your list
- Don’t pick someone to be a mentor if you want or plan to work for them someday. A mentor should be viewed as long term guidance counselor, not your future boss
- Choose wisely. Pick a reliable person who will “show up” when needed.
Successful people build relationships and gather intelligence from a wide variety of experts in all industries and age brackets. Insular people who are unwilling to leave their comfort zone become closed off from opportunities.
Mentors provide guidance and help you overcome challenges, both professional and personal. And if you’re really lucky, they will inspire you along the way.