Anybody who wants a more successful career should find an experienced and trusted adviser or three. Personally I have my own little board of directors, whom I call my “Brain Trust.” And today I’m having lunch with a former boss who is now semi-retired but still a valuable network resource.
What should you be looking for in a mentor? How do you find an experienced and trusted advisor to help you have a more successful career?
First, be clear about your own intentions and expectations. What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? Are you working on a particular behaviour or skill? Are you wanting to improve your leadership skills, get promoted, or land that big contract?
A mentor is more experienced and knowledgeable than you. A mentor is a successful model of the career you’re envisioning, but distant enough from your own job, chain-of-command, or team / department / company that they can give you an objective perspective of your situation.
Their own self-interest does not play into any advice or feedback they give you. Nor will you hold back sharing important details with him or her for fear of it affecting your career, deal, or company.
A mentor is willing to spend time with you, coach you, and introduce you into his or her network. A mentor genuinely cares about you. They may even become a friend, but not necessarily.
You should respect your mentor, and work at establishing and maintaining the relationship. You’re getting more out of it than they are. You should be willing to invest the time and effort required. Treat it like the professional commitment that it is.
Your mentor will be honest (and kind) with you, push you out of your comfort zone, and ask you the questions that might make you squirm. A mentor will help you grow. If you’re not going to take their advice, then don’t waste their time.
In the end it’s your decisions about what actions to take or not. That never changes. Just consider that what got you to where you are might not get you to where you want to go next. Commit to making the changes needed to reach your goals.
If you don’t already have one, make a list of three potential mentors including what you would hope to learn from them. They don’t necessarily need to be in your network already. How will you approach them?