Want to Advance your Career? Find a Mentor!
By Dr. Frumi Rachel Barr
Lux was a top performer. In the 20 years before I met her she was always considered a high potential employee. In her two decades in the IT department of a large financial institution she progressed slowly but steadily through the ranks. If there were a complex problem to resolve –Lux would get it done.
And then she got stuck. She couldn’t understand why she was overlooked time and again to achieve a top position. The reason was simple – she never asked. Sometime being good at what you do can be what prevents you from getting ahead. Why would anyone advance Lux further when she was doing such an excellent job just where she was? And for her part, she never let anyone know that she had her eye on a very senior position. The game changer for her was the suggestion to find a Mentor. She chose the CFO of the organization who was both flattered and interested in being her guide. Within a very short time, after expressing her interest in moving up the ladder, and following her mentor’s suggested roadmap to success, she achieved her objective of being a senior V.P.
And now it’s your turn. A Mentor is a wise and trusted counselor and guide. In “traditional” corporations an executive or senior person is assigned a “high potential” to assist in his or her development. A Mentor has a body of knowledge that a Mentee would like to learn. For example, in an accounting firm, information regarding technical matters and professional development are often transferred from Mentor to Mentee.
There are many reasons why having a Mentor can accelerate your career. Here are three for you to consider: • Guidance regarding how to navigate corporate politics. For women, it sometimes helps to have a Mentor who is also female. Your role as a Mentee is to be open to the feedback, suggestions, and critiques that are offered to you. This will maximize the effect of the support you receive.
• Assistance finding connections, the “whos” who can help you get where you’d like to be more quickly. The question to ask is “who do you know who….”
• And thirdly, guidance in how to improve your skills. Within the context of a mentoring relationship the Mentor assists an individual fill a particular knowledge gap by learning how to do things more effectively.
In your search for a Mentor, it’s a good idea to choose someone working in the same functional area as you are, as well as someone who shares your values. Professional organizations in your field, whether they offer formal mentoring programs or not, can be excellent sources of Mentors. Test the waters by asking for advice first. Be open to sharing your concerns and fears. Mentors are most likely to invest themselves in those in whom they see a little of themselves.
Don’t think that you, as a Mentee, get all the benefits from the relationship. In my experience mentoring is a rich and rewarding experience and I’ve learned more about technologies from my Mentees than I would ever have learned on my own! Having a well chosen Mentor to guide you can be a game changer in accelerating your career. Do it now!