If you want to get ahead … to accelerate your success … you can:
Work harder (we’ve all tried that);
Suck up to an influential (but that’s rather pathetic, isn’t it?); or
Hope for a lucky break (and haven’t we done plenty of hoping already?)
But there is also another way.
Find a mentor!
In the workplace, we’re surrounded by many types of people, from co-workers and team leaders to supervisors and managers. Some of them have an interest in your success, and others…not so much. After all, they have their own self-interests, problems, challenges and priorities too.
A mentor, on the other hand, is someone who has taken a direct, unselfish interest in your success. A mentor is an advisor, one who shares wisdom and teachings. They are critical partners in your development and, most importantly, they can help you unlock your true potential.
Few would dispute the fact that having a mentor is a great thing, a blessing indeed. Obviously, it’s finding a mentor that’s the hard part. Since you can’t force someone to become your mentor, it has to occur somewhat organically. (Many well-intentioned companies have tried to create “mentor initiatives” that ultimately fail because, in short, people either click or they don’t.) Without question, this is a rich and deep topic, but here are two tangible pieces of advice:
Be Prepared. Beginning a relationship with a mentor is an investment. You will need to devote the extra time and energy to become actively engaged with your mentor, and don’t expect to be spoon fed. Be ready to put forth questions and topics for exploration, and be ready to respond to information, questions and references sent your way. Most mentors want inquisitive, energetic mentees, so come into the relationship demonstrating energy and a true desire to learn and improve.
Activate Your Sensors. Begin thinking about potential mentors and know what to look for. Seek out those who meet the following criteria:
- Helpful, giving nature and authentic generous spirit
- Good communicator
- Demonstrated willingness to teach others
- Easily approachable
- Possesses the experience, skills, and smarts you’re looking to develop
I have had the pleasure of learning from four mentors over the course of my career. Not one of them did I pursue directly. Each came about from my openness toward having a mentor. Conversely, I have been blessed to be a mentor to an equal number of proteges—again, all organic in origin. Such relationships are incredibly powerful and rewarding. Case in point: I took an idea, suggested by one of my mentors, and turned it into a book that I co-wrote with my protege, Emily Bennington. Effective Immediately – How to Fit In, Stand Out and Move Up in Your First Real Job is woven from the fabric of our shared learning over the course of a decade. My hope is that each of you will defy the odds and discover a mentor, with whom you will enjoy a rich, longstanding relationship and many great accomplishments.
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