Mentors: Vital at All Points of Your Career
By Doug Lawrence
I mentor a number of people and have been doing so for most of my career. I have also been mentored over that same career journey and understand the value of having a good mentor in my life. Here are some benefits of having a mentor:
1. Perspective and Experience.
A mentor can give you the benefit of his or her perspective and experience. He or she can help you assimilate to a new position and give you an insider’s view on how to get things done.
2. Think Outside the Box.
A mentor can help you look at situations in new ways. He or she can ask hard questions and help you solve problems.
3. Define and Reach Long-Term Goals.
A mentor can help you define your career path and ensure that you don’t lose focus even when you become distracted by day-to-day pressures. Ultimately you need to own your own career plan and your personal and professional growth. You need to balance your growth with short and long term goals that challenge you.
When you know you are meeting with your mentor, you ensure that all the tasks you discussed in your last meeting are completed. I always ask that my mentee/protégé own the meeting agenda. We can make sure that we address the things that are important to them. If we have homework, we make sure that both of us clearly understand the expectations.
5. Trusted Colleague to Discuss Issues.
A mentor can be a great sounding board for all issues – whether you are having difficulty with your immediate supervisor, an ethical dilemma, or need advice on how to tackle a new project or ask for a raise. As with any relationship the terms of that relationship need to be defined at the beginning. I have found that we must agree on confidentiality as we both may share things that are meant to be kept within the confines of our relationship. Both parties need to respect the other and the relationship terms.
6. Champion and Ally.
A mentor who knows you well can be a strong champion of your positive attributes and an ally during any bumpy spots in your career. I always try and find out as much as I can about my mentee/protégé so that I am better prepared to meet their needs. Having a good relationship means that I can tailor how I help them to who they are as a person. A good leader should always know his/her team mates and be able to tailor the management style to the person. A mentor relationship is no different.
7. Expand Your Contacts and Network.
A mentor can help expand your network of contacts and business acquaintances. They may also help you prepare for your job hunting journey. This may include resume review or rebuilding, your elevator pitch, and interview preparation. All of these take time but will make you a better well rounded applicant.
8. Open Doors.
A mentor can open doors within your company, in other companies, or onto a board. Remember that they are opening a door for you, what you do when you cross over the threshold is largely dependent on you and how well you have prepared yourself. Take advantage of any experience you can get in the volunteer – not for profit space. It is very rewarding and expands your experience in the leadership space.
A mentor whose work you admire can be a strong inspiration. Choose your mentor wisely. After I have held my initial meeting with a perspective mentee/protégé, I recommend that they sleep on the decision of whether or not we want to begin a relationship. This may well be a relationship that can span a lifetime so it is not a decision to make hastily.
10. Work Better.
With the help of a good mentor, you can work more efficiently with a clearer view of the future you are trying to achieve. This helps you feel more confident in your job, which leads to better job performance and more success along your chosen road.
Challenge each other, communicate openly and freely and you both will grow from the experience. Respect each other for what you bring. Remember that the success of a mentor relationship is only as good as what you put into it.
Doug Lawrence is the president and founder of TalentC- People Services Inc. Doug has over 30 years of leadership and mentoring experience and is a thought leader in the mentoring space. Doug’s passion is to help people and organizations be the best that they can be through the “gift of mentoring”.
1. Andrea Newell (Grand Rapids, Michigan)