We are very focused on building our experience and doing well in our current position for the benefit of furthering our careers in today’s professional world. Ambition and wanting to be successful are great and necessary attributes, but pulling those long hours and investing in your continued training should only be partial components of career development.
What we may not give enough attention to is our relationships. Building relationships is very important not only personally, but for professional growth as well, especially starting out in a career at a new job or when entering a new industry. Speaking with many candidates, many of whom are younger talent, day after day, mentoring is something that occasionally comes up in conversation. But it doesn’t come up enough.
A mentor is someone who is knowledgeable in a certain area that guides or advises you. In the work place, there are likely individuals that are influencing you and helping you succeed without this relationship being officially defined as such. They could be managers, colleagues, trainers or perhaps even friends you know personally that you don't work with, but you look up to them professionally and find yourself conversing with them about work situations.
Some of the candidates I’ve spoken with have a mentor already, but it is a relationship that has not been acknowledged and they would never think to do so. If this situation works, there is certainly no written rule that the relationship should be labelled, but there could be advantages to letting your mentor know that you view he or she as a mentor or asking for this to be the case. People are genuinely pulled towards helping others, especially when asked! They would likely offer more in terms of assisting you in your career development. Why not ask out loud?
"I view you as a mentor and I appreciate our relationship. I hope it will continue and I can learn more from you, if you are willing to mentor me."
I will write again about individuals in my career that I have been lucky enough to call my mentors, but if I could accomplish anything by writing this blog entry it would be to encourage people to actively seek out mentors. Find people in your life and career that have the knowledge your respect and the inclination to mentor you. Discussions about what they have achieved, where they were when they were your age or at your career level, what strategy or path they chose that led them to this place or even what mistakes they wouldn't do again could all be invaluable knowledge as to how you can succeed professionally.
If there is no one at the moment who fits this bill, be open to the idea of having a mentor at some point in the future. It’s a long way to retirement and many of us will be working for years to come and meeting a lot of people along the way. Chances are that you will encounter someone who is successful and that you deeply admire in the professional world. Should you seek mentorship from them, they will likely be flattered and more than willing to hear what your goals are and be able to give insight on how you can get there! It’s worth putting yourself out there and who knows, one day you may want to pay it forward and mentor someone else. We are all in this together!