Volume 8, Issue 12, December 2008
Mentors Reduce Mountains
Have you hit a glass ceiling? Lack a good role model? Seek advice from a savvy survivor or industry stalwart? Sounds like you could benefit from the magic of mentoring. Do you have a mentor? If not, why not?
Accelerate Your Learning Curve
We learn life’s lessons in many ways. We read, we observe, and we experience. We receive formal and informal training, and we definitely learn through doing. Indeed, much of our learning is experiential.
And yet, your learning curve really accelerates when you adopt a mentor (or one adopts you). Yes, an experienced professional who agrees to work with you, whether on the phone, via e-mail, through informal meetings or a formal arrangement, or a combination thereof. And make no mistake: it's a partnership.
Mentors see the road ahead and know where it can take you. They see the potential in you and know how to elicit it, whether through nurturing or nudging you. Under the tutelage of a mentor not only can your learning be accelerated, but new doors can be opened as well.
When I was younger I was fiercely independent, proud of my achievements but clueless about the way things worked, in the corporate world, and in life. My mentor knew about these things and more, and was able to sketch the terrain ahead and encourage me to prepare for prosperity.
Mentors offer more than experienced eyes and ears. They provide a different kind of accountability, form a special partnership and cultivate a mutual investment…you!
Mentor Makes the Mundane More Meaningful
Whether you're new to an organization or not, your mentor is your "go-to" person for situational and career advice. It' s important to have a consistent person you can come to with questions or receive counsel from. I was apprehensive about my upcoming annual review, team retreats and a company-wide audit. My mentor calmed me and helped me prepare for each. There were other optional events I planned to skip. My mentor suggested I could derive value from attending and participating. Indeed I derived great value from doing so.
What a fount of information a mentor can be. The key: you need to ask to become someone's mentee. It's not a birthright.
In Thee We Trust
My mentor and I developed a trust and friendship where I felt safe confiding in her my fears, past failures and insecurities. In turn she let me know I was not alone in this regard. That was comforting. She shared stories of her own of overcoming fear, accepting new challenges and reaching new heights. Her success stories buoyed me. Without a trusting relationship I would likely never have divulged past failures. I would not have shown my vulnerabilities and at the same time opened myself up to growth and learning opportunities.
Once trust is established your mentor can help you evaluate opportunities, assess your strengths and weaknesses and help identify new challenges for you. Over the years my mentor has helped me in myriad ways:
Mentor Not My Mirror Image
It’s a misnomer to presume your mentor must be like you. Consider my situation. I am a male, my mentor is female. I have black hair, hers is white. I am shorter and stoop slightly, she’s tall and statuesque. We’re of different faiths, belong to different organizations outside of work and likely vote differently in various elections. Yet she’s walked a path I am on. I wanted to learn and she has been willing to coach me. And so we bonded.
Mentors and Mentees Support Each Other
"To have a mentor is an earned privilege. Don't bleed time from other people's life if you are not prepared to follow their advice. You are ruining it for the rest of us who follow." So says Terri Sjodin, Certified Speaking Professional, and co-author of Mentoring: A Successful Guide to Mentors and Protégés. “You've got to give to get. What's in it for them? Understand the reciprocal nature of our world.”
Once I had a mentor I found myself trying a little harder, caring a little more and wanting to make my mentor proud. In a certain way now my successes and failures reflected upon my mentor as well as myself. I now felt a special responsibility to always do my best; Before I wasn’t as focused or consistent in my preparation and delivery, my approach and my demeanor.
Paying It Forward
When I first began working with my mentor I couldn’t understand why she would give of her time. After all, she had already achieved great success. She had worked her way through company minefields and reached the highest levels of management before I had even joined our organization. It took me a while to realize mentors enjoy giving back. They derive a special satisfaction from nurturing others. They vicariously enjoy seeing the progress of others as we matriculate within a particular system.
When I asked my mentor how I could repay her for her countless hours of help, there was a twinkle in her eye as she shared yet another lesson with me, one of several mentees of hers at the time. She explained that others had helped her when she was beginning and it was up to me to pass along the favor by mentoring others yet to come.
Applying the premise of the motion picture “Pay It Forward,” I have sought to mentor a variety of others in the years since I first received mentoring. Having been a mentee actually helped me become a better mentor. Being in touch with what it felt like on the receiving end of mentoring in turn made me a more effective mentor.
Success is always sweeter when it’s shared with others. Seek and select a mentor and together you succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Find a mentor or femtor, be a mentor or femtor, and success will be yours!
Keys to Finding Your Mentor
Keys to Finding the Right Mentor
Ask yourself these questions: