Mentorship, either being a mentor as well as being a mentee is such a powerful tool. Whether you’re navigating a change, reaching the heights of your career or, just starting out, connecting to mentors can open up the ability to pursue opportunities. In forming connections, you can create a loop of accountability and feedback that is essential in a career journey, whatever stage that journey might be at.
Why have a mentor?
The strength to pivot
Today’s workplace is so incredibly intricate, potentially fast moving, life changing and pivotal. The ability to manoeuvre is critical and there is often little room for error. Having a mentor, a sounding board, often someone with more experience, provides an opportunity to understand and acknowledge the best ways to navigate that work for you.
The need to seek the uncomfortable.
The more uncomfortable you are the more it means you’re on the right track especially if you have higher aspirations. Set yourself a career plan and then find a mentor who can help you break it down into smaller pieces. No matter how small, having guidance on the pieces can often stop the overwhelm and keep you focused.
The creation of career hacks
What can you learn to make aggregate career hacks? How can you then disrupt yourself to get that career hack? Everyone deep down, even if they won’t admit it, loves telling their story. Reach out to people you want to mentor you and ask them to tell their story. Listen, learn and apply the ‘learns’ to your own career.
The choice of mentor role
You can have a traditional mentoring relationship whereby you are one-to-one. Your dynamic is that of dealing with specific issues with a clear and defined ‘to-do’ list, targets and goals.
There is also the informal mentoring route – your industry ‘north stars’. These can be people you want to walk in the footsteps of. They are aspirational role models who you look up to, perhaps they have similar values, a similar background or have walked a path you’re trying to tread. More often than not these role models are ones you may follow on social media. In doing so, you see their posts everyday and hearing their voice, so a bit of them rubs off onto you. You may carry their words into your working day. You may take a tip from them that they’ve given that morning. It may be as simple as asking yourself “what would so-and-so do in this situation?”.
Mentoring doesn’t need to be a personal contact. There are amazing mentors who exist in your virtual world who talk ‘up and out’ and have incredible platforms that they are leveraging to do so. Technically you can see this as reverse mentoring. They put an opinion out there on a platform and you can be feeding back to them through social media or by putting their message into practise on what they’re advising on.
The ability to be a sponge and a stone
It’s the age old saying: to be a great leader, don’t be a genius, be a sponge and a stone. There’s a common misconception that to be a great leader, you are incredibly smart. But in reality, most super successful people aren’t always the smartest in the room, they have an attribute that sets them apart: the ability to be a sponge and a stone.
Sponges will continuously seek and absorb new information. Sponges are highly curious, information gatherers who take what they gather and learn from it. They build exceptionally strong networks around themselves, networks that they tap into, constantly asking questions and learning, learning, learning. An effective sponge will have role models or heroes who could be anyone that they find inspirational and from these people a sponge will soak up everything about that person.
Stones display fearlessness taking on a challenge from not just one angle, but every single angle possible. They go the extra mile. The mindset of stones is to believe the impossible is possible, that beyond all else you can make that idea work. A stone will also work multiple ideas at the same time, the brain is buzzing, the curiosity is at its highest and stones will often have an immense amount of ideas and energy to burn.
A common error and one that can be fatal, is to be advised to concentrate on just the one idea, to focus your energy into one pot. Activity is sure to be part of that stone’s DNA as is the desire to gather as much knowledge as possible. Pursue the challenges, allow someone to embrace the multiple angles that are inspiring them.
The power of preparation
If you pursue a traditional mentoring role then be prepared. Agree in advance what you’re looking to achieve from the meetings. Each side – both the mentee and the mentor – is accountable. Mentoring relationships that pursue this route can often have lists of red tasks – all the areas that the mentee might be struggling with. Be prepared to do the homework and tick off the agreed task – remove the personal barrier, tick if off, move onto the next one.
The recognition of the squiggly career path
So you’re taking a bit of time to open up to the idea of mentoring. Or perhaps you’ve been offered advice but you might not be ready to put it into practise. That’s just fine. You might not be in a place where you’re ready to be challenged or challenge yourself. Don’t punish yourself, wait for the right time or find a critical friend, someone who isn’t always going to agree with you. You might not like what you hear but, there’ll always be a part of their voice that you absorb and put into practise. Even if you might not want to admit it, the seed has been planted for when you are ready.
A huge thank you to Rebecca Foden and Andrea Gamson for the tips and advice on mentoring. If you’d like to reach out to either you can do so through the sistr platform or have a listen to hear the webinar in full on sistr’s YouTube platform.