Mentors and Why You Want One
Being a mentor can be a very rewarding experience for both the mentor and the mentee. No one can say how much of the success of these young professionals occurs because of the mentoring they receive, or how much is because successful people find good mentors as part of their overall plan. Regardless, having a good mentor is truly an invaluable asset.
I’ll never forget the day I met the man who became my mentor, my guide, and ultimately my very dear friend. I was young and naïve but full of determination with no clue what a mentor was, let alone what a good one can do for you. I was lucky because my mentor found me. He helped me navigate my way through the giant and complex Fortune 500 world. He showed his own courage by knocking down walls to my benefit at a time when women in management were few and far between. He believed in me before I believed in myself.
My relationship with my mentor changed over time into a lifelong friendship that included both our families, our dogs, eventually our experiences of becoming self employed, and his death a few years ago that broke my heart. Without the help of my mentor, I never would have realized my own potential nor would I have had the career success I was able to achieve. He knew how grateful I was, but he could never know just how much.
Today, Mentoring has developed into multiple definitions. There are formal and informal mentoring programs in many if not most companies, big and small, as well as in schools and professional organizations. These are programs where someone is assigned to be a mentor, or a “buddy,” to an incoming individual to help them meet people and learn how to navigate a new environment. I am a big supporter of these types of programs, but they are not the kind of mentoring I am talking about here.
I am promoting a form of organic mentoring, where the relationship comes together easily, through common interests and commitment and grows naturally. This mentor is someone invested in the mentee without any personal agenda or expectation for anything in return. The mentor is someone who has successfully walked his or her own professional path and shares the wisdom gained with their younger counterpart, maybe even preventing a repeat of errors and lessons learned the hard way. A mentor can clear the way of obstacles and guides rather than makes decisions. A good mentor is honest with you, even when it hurts.
If you are serious about having a maximally successful career, you owe it to yourself to find a good mentor. It can cut years off your learning process, possibly open doors, help you through the rough spots, and create greater success than you may have ever anticipated. It isn’t necessary or maybe even possible to find someone who has the exact career you want to have, just find someone with a proven track record for success. Find the person who has achieved what you hope to achieve, someone you like and likes you, and someone who is willing to take the time to help. Once you have your mentor, you are already ahead of your competition. If you are really extra lucky, as I was, you too may end up with a lifelong dear friend.