Want to move your career forward more quickly? A mentor could be just what you need.
Discussed in last week’s blog was the difference between a coach and a mentor. There are two types of coaches; a person who teaches you a specific skill or a person who employs a formalized coaching methodology to help the coachee enhance their personal and/or professional situation. Mentoring is the voice of experience, rather than employing the use of learned techniques and best coaching practices. Also, generally speaking, the mentor selects you, you don’t select the mentor.
From a career growth perspective, if you can find the right mentor or mentors, they can help you in a number of ways including the following.
Technical instructor: If your mentor has deep technical knowledge in a specific area, for example Java programming, it can help enhance your technical ability by being exposed to more advanced concepts, techniques and best practices.
Career coach: A mentor at a higher professional organization level can provide you advice that can help you accelerate your professional growth, make improved career related decisions, and properly position yourself for future promotion.
Professional advocate: A well respected mentor, particularly if he/she was a former manager of yours, can be used as quality reference to potential future employers, make introductions to people who can accelerate your career and/or, simply speaks well of you within earshot of those who could have a positive impact on your professional future.
Protector: If your mentor is a senior executive within your company or very influential within your industry, he/she may be in a position to protect you from layoffs, office politics gone awry, and company reorganizational activities.
Source for information: If your mentor is well connected within your geographic area, industry, specific profession, or company, this person can provide you with information related to the local economy, important industry trends, professional opportunities, and/or internal company activities.
Provider of resources: If your mentor is either a senior executive at your company, venture capitalist or has connections within influential circles, there is the potential that your mentor may be able to get funding for your internal company project, find your entrepreneurial startup, or connect you to people who would do the same.
Networking: If your mentor is well connected within the local community, your industry or your specific profession, there is the potential he/she could make introductions of great value to your career. As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Role model: One of the keynotes of a great mentorship relationship is when you have true respect for your mentor. This respect, in turn, allows you to learn your mentor’s ideals and actions with the goal of emulating his/her qualities and strengths.
A life coach: There are times when what began as a business related discussion transforms into personal advice. This transformation occurs for two primary reasons. First, the nature of the professional discussion warrants it. For example, making the decision to accept a job in a faraway city has both business and personal ramifications. Second, over time, the nature of the mentoring relationship itself can move from professional advocacy to personal friendship.
The previous list consistently describes what a mentor can do for you. Remember, no relationship is a one-way street. Certainly you cannot repay your mentor in kind because, by definition, this person is more experienced than you personally and/or professionally. That said, you thank this person by taking serious thought to his/her suggestions, paying it forward by mentoring those less experienced than you, and be thankful for the true gift of mentorship and advocacy that you are being given.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.