Over the years, I’ve provided executive coaching for a wide range of clients, but I usually ask each one of them the same question: who within your organization (or industry) can be your mentor?
To clarify, I’m not talking about a let’s-have-coffee-once kind of mentor. I am referring to an authentic, ongoing relationship that sets the stage for genuine career support, professional guidance, and even brutal honesty when necessary. Of course, these relationships take time to build and nurture, but they are essential for those who want to keep their careers moving forward at a faster-than-normal pace.
If you already have a mentor, make the most of it! If you don’t, start looking for one. Immediately. No, seriously, right now! Here are 5 amazing ways that mentors can contribute to your professional success:
Mentors know your strengths, capabilities and goals. They are often perfectly positioned to recommend you for promotions or coveted projects that could catapult you to the next level. I once had a mentor who recommended me for an incredible job. Without that endorsement, I probably wouldn’t have been considered. By convincing the hiring manager to give me a chance, my mentor paved the way for me to snag a big promotion and valuable new experiences.
Mentors have the benefit of experience, so be proactive about learning from them. When you meet with your mentor, ask specific questions to gather more detailed information. Skip generalities like, “How am I doing?” Instead, try something like this: “Your department handled change so well last quarter. What’s the secret? How could I apply that?”
Getting insights from the inside
Mentors can help you navigate complex, internal politics. While coaching provides an objective external perspective, an inside view gives you a distinct advantage. When you have a deeper understanding of the key players and decision-making processes behind the scenes, you’ve got a much better shot at reading the corporate tea leaves.
Mentors may challenge you to stretch and move out of your comfort zone, but they also provide feedback and reinforcement along the way. Knowing you have back-up support makes a big difference in your attitude as you travel into uncharted waters.
Mentors are a priceless resource if you get into a tight spot and need help to get out. They’ve likely been in the same situation before and can share some pearls of wisdom based on their past experiences.
Do you have a mentor who has influenced your career success? In what ways? Please share your comments.