When thinking about your future career, consider also how you got to where you are. It's likely you owe much to your parents, and they continue to affect our lives as adults. Think about how they led you, guided you and mentored you in your life. Not just through your early years, but continuing as you grew, developed, changed and evolved into who you are today as a person, as a human being. You owe much of who you are to your Mom and Dad.
Parents are amazingly consistent in wanting the best for their children and that doesn't stop when you leave the home. This is a familiar concept in our personal lives but many don't have anybody to fill this role in their professional lives.
In your career, you need someone who, like your Mom or Dad, is there for you to help you, guide you and is looking out for your best long-term interests. That person is your mentor.
Sadly, few people have a career mentor. Why? In most cases, it simply isn’t part of the job description. It’s an over-and-above activity for both the mentor and the mentee. Yet in all my years in corporate life, I have not once been turned down in my request for mentors, nor have I turned down the request of others to be a mentor.
So the simple first step is to simply ask. “Will you be my mentor?” In selecting a mentor, you should be seeking someone at least one level higher than your current role, ideally two levels above. It can be someone at your current employer, but it can also be someone at another company who is well connected and understands your role. But most of all, it should be someone you trust in both sharing your personal details as well as accepting open, honest advice. You can and should be sharing confidential information, so you need to trust the person to keep your discussions confidential.
Once you have selected and requested a mentor, you need to put some structure into your mentor meetings. What has worked well for me over time has been an in-depth initial meeting and sharing, then quarterly update meetings, usually for lunch. At the initial in-depth meeting, you should share both your most recent resume as well as your current job information. Then go into detail about your longer term goals and plans for your career, as well as being open to initial input and advice from your mentor on how to reach those goals. With this as the foundation and framework, the quarterly meetings will go more smoothly as a continuation of this initial meeting.
The quarterly update meetings allow you to provide an update on steps you have taken since your last meeting, as well as providing the mentor with the opportunity to give further input and direction. You should be willing to ask for advice and keep an open mind to the input you receive.
As your career progresses, you may need to change mentors based on a variety of factors: job change, promotion, location change, mentor’s change in circumstances and value of the interaction. Keep in mind that the role of the mentor is all give and yours is all take. So at some point in your career, you need to be willing to give back by being a mentor to others.
The mentor’s role is invaluable to someone growing in their career, since it will give you a new and fresh perspective from a higher level. These insights can help you to modify and adapt your approach for moving to the next level both within your current role as well as preparing you for future roles.
Take a moment to appreciate what your Mom and Dad have done for you. If you haven't talked to them recently, give them a call today. And remember to seek out a mentor in your career who will be there for you to help and guide you along the way.