There’s no question that having a career mentor can play an integral role in advancing your career, but forging relationships with mentors can sometimes seem like a daunting task.
Career mentoring is a somewhat misleading term because mentors can guide your development in a vast number of ways and a mentor can come from anywhere. A mentor does not need to be in your company, they don’t necessarily need to be industry specific to you or your field, and they don’t have to be someone you are looking specifically for career advice from.
Look at mentors and mentorship as one of the many vehicles we use in our path of personal progress and professional development. Do some soul-searching. What areas do you need to develop in to advance your career and accomplish goals? What areas do you want to make quantum leaps in, not just incremental progress? Finding great career mentors relies on identifying your goals because that becomes the foundational element of value in the relationship.
Try looking in these unlikely places for mentorship:
For many people, their dream career mentor is a powerful and successful public figure. Out of your reach, right? Wrong! People in the news, business leaders, and thought leaders all put themselves out there and are looking to engage in and with their communities. With the ubiquity of social channels today public figures make it very easy to communicate directly with them. Be bold. Reach out, introduce yourself and say, “I admire you and would love your feedback on [insert specific question, issue, goal etc], would you be able to have a coffee?” Don’t expect a 100% success rate but you’ll be surprised how accessible some public figures are.
Sometimes the most valuable mentorship doesn’t come from within your company or even within your industry. For example, new entrepreneurs inevitably seek out mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs. However, entrepreneurs often find equally valuable career mentors from the finance industry who can guide them on growing their company in a way that will attract investment. By finding people who have a different perspective to those within your company or industry, you can gather exceptionally valuable insight.
Family and Friends
Think back to interviews you have read or listened to with celebrities or other people you admire. When they get asked who the biggest influence on them has been, more often than not, they will name a family member. The people closest to you are uniquely positioned to guide you. You are comfortable being vulnerable and honest with these people and you always know that they have your best interests – both personal and professional – at heart.
I have had hundreds, perhaps thousands, of amazing mentors ranging from top business leaders to historical figures without ever meeting the vast majority. I have amassed a collection of over 2000 books since college and each and every one has improved me as a person or professional. Books give you intimate access to the thoughts and actions of those you aspire to be like. And the advantage of a book is that you can revisit it time and time again as needed to glean new lessons right when you need them.
When seeking out mentorship, just remember that there is no single oracle where you can go for all of your information, constructive criticism, insight and so on and so forth. To develop ourselves and accomplish all the things we set out to accomplish in our careers, look for the mentorship of a variety of people.
What unlikely places have you found career mentors in? Share your thoughts with us below.