There are few things that are as important to your personal development as finding good, supportive mentors in your career. It’s important not only because you can gain knowledge and skills from a mentor, but also because they can help provide personal support and facilitate success in many areas.
I connect the importance of a mentor to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion:
“An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.”
A good mentor can act as that “outside force” to help you progress through your career, improve your current performance, and help you navigate complexities in personal relations, office politics, and negotiations.
Internal vs. External Mentors
It is beneficial to have both internal and external mentors from the perspective of your company. This is because they can advise and help you in different ways.
An internal mentor:
- Can help you work through problems with business processes
- Is able to connect you with specific people and resources available in your company
- Is sometimes biased in advising you because of company responsibilities
An external mentor:
- Can look at your entire career and advise you on various paths to take
- Acts as an unbiased advocate for you
- Will often connect you with people in different companies and industries to broaden your perspective
What Does a Good Mentor Do?
One definition of a mentor is a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher; an influential senior sponsor or supporter. Thus, a mentor ought to be trusted, influential, and supportive. It’s therefore important to not just find any mentor, but a good mentor who can help you through various challenges that you need help with. A good mentor should be able to:
- Provide you with new ideas
- Challenge you to be better than you are
- Be vested in your career growth and success
- Hold you accountable for things you say you want to accomplish
If you find a mentor that is not doing these or related things, it is totally okay to stop a mentoring relationship and search for a new mentor that can meet your needs. It’s your career, and a mentor is supposed to be an advisor. If their help isn’t helpful, there is no reason to continue working with them.
Find Mentors Early
You should be seeking mentors that are successful so that you can draw upon their success in your own career. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. While everyone is different, it’s helpful to learn from someone who has “been there, done that.”
The earlier you find good mentors the better. Some companies provide a mentorship program for new employees, but I would also suggest you find mentors outside of official programs. These relationships often feel more natural and less forced.
In all cases, remember also that a mentoring relationship is just like any other relationship – it goes two ways. You need to come prepared and willing to invest in conversation and learning so that you are not wasting your mentor’s time. If you take personal responsibility for the success of your time together, you’ll be much happier.
I would be truly honored to be a trusted mentor for you!
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