In today’s work place, it’s so easy to bury ourselves in our cubicles (or home offices) and assume we’ll make it on our own. After all, we are educated, moderately experienced, and enthusiastic about what we do. But let’s face it, there will be times when we need outside guidance and perspective in our careers especially when contemplating the big questions. Do I accept a new role within the company and relocate to another division? Should I quit my job to finish my MBA program? Am I ready to be a manager? Is this the right time to start my own marketing business?
Whom can you turn to when you don’t know all of the answers? Your career mentor, of course. To be clear, this person is not your boss or a paid career coach. I’m talking about that special business professional (inside or outside your industry) who crosses your career path unexpectedly and takes you under his or her wing for a year or two, or maybe even a lifetime. This person is your professional adviser, trusted counselor, career advocate, faithful cheerleader, and lifeline.
I count my lucky stars that I’ve been blessed with a handful of career mentors who have positively touched my life with their sage advice and exemplary aptitude. Here are my own reminders why I continually need career mentors in my life.
You don’t know everything.
There are times when I morph into a stubborn, know-it-all type of person who doesn’t like asking for help. I’d rather read the manual, download the software “patch” or struggle on my own. This approach works only about 30% of the time when it comes to growing careers or businesses. There are key situations where you need to find an immediate, and proven, solution from those who have been there before. Put your pride on the porch and ask for help. Trust me, it will not make you look bad or destroy your career. In addition, carefully observe those mentors if they have a unique skill set you want to develop. Watch what they do, gather up the processes and tools they use, and find opportunities to assist. You’ll be amazed at the knowledge transfer process.
You can’t always be objective.
We are biased whether we like it or not. Why? Because we usually think from the inside out rather than the other way around. But when we stop to get another person’s viewpoint, we often get a new set of information that broadens our perspective on the situation. For me, I find that it is important to have at least one career mentor outside my industry if I’m struggling with objectivity.
You need to be held accountable.
Sometimes we need a gentle nudge from others in order for us to take the next step, such as asking for a raise or promotion, writing a new business plan, completing a non-deadline driven career milestone, etc. An accountability partner will encourage you during setbacks and plateaus or when you experience a lack of motivation.
Your management comes and goes.
If you solely depend on career mentoring from your current manager, you will get burned. Managers move up or get fired. Some managers are simply inept. Others are threatened by your abilities. And worse yet, you may become manager less. I’ve discovered that my long-time business vendors, agencies, and former managers stick with me for the long haul. I can always rely on these trusted advisers amidst the internal management ups and downs.
You must keep up with the times.
For most of the scenarios mentioned above, it’s often best to seek out seasoned individuals who have been there before. But I also find it important to find career mentors who are younger than myself. Say what…isn’t that counter-intuitive? Heck no. We can learn from others regardless of their age. In fact, Jack Welch supported the reverse mentoring trend when he was chief executive of General Electric. He was even matched with an employee in her 20s who taught him how to surf the Web. Now more than ever, we need to stay current on technology, social media, new business practices, and more. And what better way to learn than from those who are watching us!
Did I miss anything? Drop me a line and share the importance of career mentors in your life.