Updated: Sep 26, 2019
I was at an event a few weeks ago where the purpose of the event was to connect young professionals with mentors in their industry - great right!! It was a wonderful evening with many young people standing up to talk about the career challenges they are facing. The advice they were given by potential mentors was inspiring and it seemed that many connections would be made that night.
After the formal event, about twenty young women approached me to consider mentoring them - something I am only too open to doing. I handed out all my business cards and encouraged each young woman to make contact. I left the meeting wondering how I would decide who to mentor (as I would not be able to mentor all of them sadly), and was excited about doing more to contribute to the development of young women that want to go places in their careers!
That was almost three weeks ago.... and to date I have not received a single communication from any of the seemingly eager potential mentees.
For a while I wondered if I had done something wrong, whether there was some cultural miscommunication, whether I scared anyone off. Then I was frustrated as I would have sent off an email first thing the next morning if I had wanted someone to mentor me.
Then I was sad as it made me wonder about the potential for young professionals if they are unable to advocate for their careers (the irony being that a mentor helps people to advocate for themselves). And then I tried to stand in the shoes of the young professionals at the meeting that night and understand what their perspective may be.
In discussions with several young people in the last few weeks I have come to realise that the disconnect between the many woman asking for my card the one evening and the lack of follow up communications since then, can not be attributed to any single one reason and that any combination of the following could contribute to hesitance to follow up in establishing a mentoring relationship:
lack of confidence,
assumptions around value of mentoring,
fear around what it means to ask for help and advice,
perceptions around mentoring taking up time in an already busy schedule,
assumptions around mentoring being something that you get, rather than a relationship that you develop.
At some point in the future I will probably blog about the diversity of reasons that people do not have mentors, but today's blog is about 5 reasons why you really do need a mentor.
So here goes:
Nobody is too good, too clever, or too important to have a mentor.
Everyone can benefit from having another persons perspective when we find we are hitting a brick wall and coming up blank. A mentor who understands your industry, the type of work you do, and the career challenges you might face, can help you to brainstorm what's going on, give you advice, lift you out of your own "stuff" and encourage you to push through those challenges. Most mentors have more experience than their mentee - and their experience and wisdom can bring a lot to a discussion when you are feeling stuck or losing hope. It doesn't mean you have to act on that advice, but rather that you use it to broaden your perspective and way of thinking.
Help you make connections.
Mentors tend to have a wide circle of people in their networks, and pave the way for you to make those connections too. Mentors are always wiling and even proud to introduce their mentees to people that could help them go further in their career. Without a mentor, you may be limiting your access to new opportunities, exciting projects, access to influencers and the opportunity to be seen, heard and recognised.
Mentors advocate for their mentees.
They stand up for you and are "in your corner" when you need to them be. A mentor will always seek to empower you to speak up for yourself and to be seen and heard, but if necessary will speak up for you when you can't do it yourself!
Help you push your boundaries and learn new skills that you may need in future roles.
Most mentors want to work with people that are willing to invest in themselves as they can see potential where sometimes we can't see it in ourselves. So when you need a nudge in the right direction, or a boot out of your comfort zone, a mentor is the person that is going to say to you it's time to stretch yourself, to apply yourself, to take a risk and push your boundaries - all the while having your back and cheering you on. Your success is a great reflection on your mentor!
Life long advice and personal cheerleader.
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have contributed to someone else's development and success. Mentoring is a relationship rather than a transaction - and while a mentoring relationship can sometimes outlive its purpose, for the most part the development of a strong relationship with a mentor, can result in having the support and backing of someone throughout your career for as long as you want it. Why wouldn't you want that?
So if you are not in a mentoring relationship right now, here are a few things to think about and perhaps act on:
Who could I be learning from?
Who inspires me and has a career that I would like to emulate?
What is stopping me from asking for advice and guidance when I get stuck?
How could I offer value to a mentor in return for their investment of time in me?
What are my career development goals and who (could be more than one mentor) could help me achieve those goals?
What sort of support and guidance am I looking for?
What is stopping me from developing a relationship with a potential mentor?
I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.
I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.
I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.
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