THE EMPLOYMENT CLINIC:
Everyone who makes it has a mentor
By Lawrence Alter
“Everyone who makes it has a mentor,” the title of a landmark 1978 article in the Harvard Business Review, is right on. However, there is a mistaken perception that only young people and new college graduates need mentors. Far from the truth, we can all benefit from mentoring relationships. Great leaders have always recognized their responsibility in cultivating others to reach high levels of achievement. Each of us from the student considering his or her career path, to the most senior executive, can benefit from the sage advice and encouragement of knowledgeable and successful people.
Mentors are experienced, well-established members of your company, industry, or the community in which you live that can facilitate your development and help you to reach specific personal and career objectives. They are an equally valuable resource for people seeking new employment or those desiring to advance their careers. A good mentor can provide the job seeker with coaching and guidance, encouragement, constructive growth criticism, furnish networking contacts, and facilitate introductions. They are invaluable to the employed professional dealing with internal growth and political issues. They will normally have a desire to see you succeed, inspire confidence, be a sounding board for your hopes and ideas, and assist you in reaching important career and life decisions. Yes, you can have more than one mentor at a time.
Almost anyone with high standards who can have a positive impact on your life can be a mentor. Family members, a manager or executive that you respect, an established community leader whose philosophy and ideals you admire, to members of the clergy – all can become mentors that influence your future success.
The following suggestions should assist you in getting the most benefit from your mentoring relationships.
- Take the time to get to know your mentor, their attitudes and concept of how they f eel they can best contribute to achieving your goals.
- Have a clear understanding of how and where you need assistance and what you expect to gain from your mentor. Don’t be ambiguous, have a goal in mind. Ask what is expected of you in the relationship so they are able to provide the greatest benefit.
- Provide your mentor with a resume or biographical sketch of your background including achievements and important recognitions.
- If your mentor is someone within your company, find out what they believe is necessary to succeed and grow within the organizational culture. Find out what was valuable to them as they were growing.
- Be frank when speaking about your weaknesses, and areas in which improvement is important. Don’t be ashamed to admit your fears, inadequacies, and self doubts. Your mentor has had to overcome many of the same anxieties.
- As you are growing within an organization, you will consistently face new dilemmas and issues; use your mentor as a sounding board for your questions, ideas, and plans.
- Be willing to accept constructive criticism without being defensive or argumentative. If a mentor indicates some work related or personal shortcoming; criticizes your strategy, methods, or behavior be receptive to their critique and eager to learn. Then set an agenda to take corrective steps that will help you to improve.
- Keep your mentor apprised of your progress and any ongoing issues you are encountering. Let them know how their advice has helped you to progress and achieve your objectives. However, make sure to respect their time so you don’t become a burden. Suggest regular meetings or phone discussions every 60-90 days to keep them updated.
- Trust your mentor. Most mentors have a genuine interest in helping. They have learned the value of giving something back in exchange for the success they enjoy. We all feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when our advice and assistance has benefited others.
- Make sure you recognize and thank your mentor for their guidance and assistance. Put your thank you in writing. Nothing is more appreciated than a personal letter which is a testament to the value they have provided. It is a testimonial they will be proud to share with others.
- Finally, once you are successful, be a mentor to others. Remember the value you gained through someone else expending the time and effort to be your advisor. Take someone under your wing. Become a mentor to a new employee, an intern, or a new college graduate entering the job market. Mentoring others will assist you in developing your own management and leadership potential, give you a strong sense of self-satisfaction, demonstrate that you are a team player, and gain the respect and approval of your peers and managers.
If your company does not sponsor mentoring programs, write a proposal citing the advantages and bring it to the attention of senior management.
Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques. Send ideas or questions via email to: LDA@EmploymentClinic.com. Website address: www.EmploymentClinic.com"