Mentorship Series Pt. 1
One thing I can’t recommend enough would be finding a Mentor. I have made sure that as I transition into or through different phases of my career I always have someone taking part in my journey.
Before we jump into the benefits and the “Why Find a Mentor” it is worth clarifying what a Mentor would not be in this instance.
First of all, a mentor should never be a direct manager that has metrics tied to your success. Now the importance of a good manager is a whole different topic we will cover, but for now when it comes to finding that Mentor, you will need to step outside the direct report box.
I have had amazing Managers, ones that do care where I want to go, what I plan to do, and try to set me up for that next step. However, utilizing a Manager that shares success metrics with you can cause for barriers of conversation and openness. One concept I want to make sure that everyone understands, no one is more invested in your career than you.
Managers have a day job, they have a team, they have responsibilities, their team success is their paycheck and livelihood. No one is more invested in their career than them. I have found even with the best intentions of management, having them fully involved in your career moves can add complex layers to your relationship. I have had Managers become my Mentors after I have left their team, but I do separate my outside aspirations with my direct Managers while reporting to them.
Second, for the purpose of this exercise we will avoid thinking of Mentors as those who would have you come to their giant virtual seminars, or pay thousands of dollars to have the pleasure of their tutelage. Now, do those have their purpose, umm maybe? sure? TED Talks are free?, but when it comes to having direct day to day advice or personalized situational input, it is best to find someone who is invested in your progress, outside of metrics, and outside of pay incentives. There are definitely courses, trainings, and skills unleveling events that can add a ton of value, but those are built on a larger scale. In the search for “your” mentor it is more beneficial and dare I say, strategic, to stay a few degrees closer to your situation than the speaker on stage. It would be more apt to title those individuals as a coach. They are more firmly planted into an outcome as they have been incentivized to provide one. Influential Coaches and Managers are extremely important and can help while you are in a defined scope. They refine those rough edges for certain individual skills.
Lastly, one Mentor forever and for every situation. I have been honored to have had a few individuals take interest in me and invested time into my career. They take the time to work with me where I am at. Successful mentors also know when to handoff, and since they know you, they can point you in an impactful direction. I still keep in touch with all of them, but as my situation changes so do our interactions. Though they are always open to talk and guide, it may have come to a point where I have diverted to a role or path they do not specialize in. Though one of the most important differentiators we can have is using our own experience to tie to new situations, having one person try to take on your whole complex journey will not lead to success.
Hopefully, that adds some definition to what a Mentor is not, let’s take a moment to find what a Mentor is.
A Mentor is someone who is able to walk that fine line of advising on your career and sharing expertise while knowing you and what your motivations are. They are able to separate their aspirations, their biases, and since neither of you are directly tied to the success criteria of the other, both sides can be more open and honest.
They have their own Mentors. We live in a world that we need to be constant students. Some of us may have “mastered” a craft, but really that is only a part of a craft. The complexities we face in this day and age show that our craft may have taken on new elements or maybe it is showing signs of disruption. Technology, in the form of efficiency, automation, and demand has changed the way we work and interact.
All my Mentors have stressed the importance of being a continuous student. Having someone know they always have more to learn shows authenticity, intelligence and the foundations of a good leader. I consider Mentorship a continuous and cyclical journey. The message my first Mentor gave me is the philosophy I live by in my own experience when I Mentor others. When I first could tell my life was really changing, I could see the progress, the question marks on the map started to become goals and solutions, I asked how I could ever repay the efforts and time. The reply I received was “You can’t repay me directly, you can now help the next one.”
Find a Mentor who believes in you and your potential, one that aligns to your goals future. Someone who lives the cycle of being continuous growth so they can learn from others, in turn helping others, who then help the next, and the next.
Now that we know what we are looking for, we need to know how to find them or how to help them find us? Part two of our Mentorship series will force us to go introspective. It is how do we know we are ready for a Mentor?
See You Around