Over the course of my executive recruiting career, I have heard countless stories related to the value of partnering with an industry mentor who provides insight, advice and feedback. I firmly believe high performing professionals in our industry have a key thing in common: there is zero tolerance for mediocrity and remaining in the safe and comfy “comfort zone”. One way to be certain that doesn’t occur is to seek out industry mentors or coaches who inspire, encourage and push personal and professional development. Partnering with the right mentor or “board of advisors” throughout the various stages of your career can make a significant impact to a professional who is coachable and an avid learner.
While some mentoring relationships happen quite naturally, the quest to identify the perfect mentor can take a bit more effort, but anything worth pursuing is rarely easy. If you have been considering seeking a mentor, here are a few thoughts for consideration:
1. “A real friend or mentor isn’t on your payroll” ~ Prince
Prince certainly had a bold but valid point in that statement. Although not always true, preferably great mentor relationships occur outside the workplace and friend zone in order to offer the most unbiased feedback and insight. A mentor who comes with no preconceived notions or thoughts can dig in and understand your needs and offer insight as to where improvements or strategy changes are needed. True growth demands the good, bad and the ugly be discussed and a mentor who desires to offer that can do so more easily if the sensitivity factor is a non-issue. After all, mentors are not meant to make one “happy”, but rather to guide to the best of their knowledge.
2. “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination” ~ John C. Maxwell
Seeking a mentor who is respected with relevant industry experience is most productive. When considering who might fit that bill, a common mistake is going straight to the busiest, most recognized and visible mentors. This approach may work occasionally, but choosing key leaders within your industry and market might offer additional possibilities for those able to invest the time in a mentoring relationship. Consider identifying potential mentors who are functioning at a more senior level today but have been in your shoes and can easily relate to current experiences. It is with the real-life experiences – and let’s face it, mistakes – that a mentor pulls from and can offer sound advice and guidance.
3. “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” ~ John F. Kennedy
The ability to be 100% open and honest with a respected industry leader, who is fully committed to your personal and professional growth and success is both a unique and extremely treasured relationship. Great mentors see the overwhelming value because often they too were mentored early on and throughout their career and the experience received from that investment played a critical role in their success. Mentors see the value in directly influencing others, helping to harness unique talents and skills and even revisiting their own past lessons and hurdles. As Clint Eastwood wisely once said, “What I think the mentor gets is the great satisfaction of helping somebody along, helping somebody take advantage of an opportunity that maybe he or she did not have.”.
So, what are you waiting for? Start working toward a mentor relationship and better yet, become someone’s mentor and impart your wisdom and experiences to those who want to learn and develop. Mentoring makes a difference!