Mentorships: The Secret to a More Successful and Rewarding Career

Mentorship

In order to approach your career in marketing from a holistic perspective, you not only have to be in tune with the larger picture, but in tune with yourself.

I came across a couple of articles recently about mentorships, and as soon as I saw the phrase “the entire focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person,” I knew I had to write more about it. According to Wikipedia, mentorships can be traced back to the Greek era. The word “mentor” itself was inspired by the character of Mentor in Homer’s Odyssey. It’s the reason why many companies, non-profits, and colleges in the United States structure formal mentorship programs … though some of the best mentorships in my opinion happen naturally.

So, how can you find a mentor? A good mentor can help serve as a guide to both your professional and personal development. Not only can a mentor serve as a source of inspiration, priceless knowledge, and advice, but mentors can help you navigate your own direction and purpose. If you already have a mentor, how can you be a good mentee? And if you are already someone’s unofficial mentor, how can you also benefit from the relationship? Please read on to learn more.

Finding a Mentor

According to a recent article from Forbes, the author suggests this piece of advice:

Find your mentors among the people you know who are 10 steps ahead of you in your field, role, or industry, doing what you want to, in the way you want to. Connect with new people who you can help, and who will find it a mutually rewarding and beneficial experience to support you.

In my personal experience, I found one mentor through work, and another as a side effect of being involved in a non-profit. The lesson here is probably not to sit in a vacuum waiting for the perfect mentor to arrive, but to be out in the field, actively engaged, and meeting people along your journey. In fact, I would even caution that a mentor does not necessarily have to be someone in your exact field or whose working in a role you one day picture yourself in. Some of the best mentors for me have been completely outside of my industry and have included a philosophy professor, a commercial real estate executive, and an entrepreneur.

For those who don’t know where to start, I recommend this article from Forbes “How to Find a Great Mentor.” In essence, the author advises that you never ask a stranger to be a mentor, and similarly, never freak out a stranger you admire about wanting to be a mentee. In short it’s a bit like the lessons learned from the book The Secret: it’s more about the law of attraction and less about forcing your ideas onto the world and having a set expectation for what should flow from it.

How to Be a Good Mentee

Perhaps you already have a mentor, or you have a stranger that you admire who could potentially serve as a great mentor. If that’s the case, then I recommend a second article from Forbes entitled “How to Find and Use a Mentor.” The key points are as follows:

  • Examine yourself
  • Decide what you want in a mentor
  • Cast a wide net
  • Be specific when you reach out
  • Go after more than one mentor
  • Offer something in return
  • Be an active protegé
  • Follow up

In short, rather than being an admiring wallflower, take a deep look at yourself, get clear about what it is you are searching for in a mentor, and then take action on building a relationship in a way that is constructive and open-ended. The author advises:

Ask for something specific, like a 20-minute meeting over coffee to learn about the person’s career path, or a short desk-side meeting to ask advice about internships.

In reading this, I am reminded of some great advice I once received from a person who started a technology company and sold it for good money at a young age/ He had mentioned to me that he spent his first six months after college meeting simply people he wanted to learn from over lunch or coffee via his LinkedIn network. Sometimes he’d have three coffee appointments a day. But in short, he met many amazing professionals who eventually ended up serving as his long-term base network of business contacts to include unofficial advisors, eventual clients, and partners.

Tips for Being a Good Mentor

Maybe you notice there are people in your industry who are always flocking to you who are consistently asking you for ideas, opinions, and advice? Perhaps there’s a person or two who always “likes,” re-tweets, or comments on everything you do in the digital space? Do you always seem to be receiving LinkedIn invites from industry colleagues you’ve never met? Getting asked to lunch or coffee to talk about an issue or idea with someone as it relates to your job and career? If so, congratulations – chances are that you are that official or unofficial mentor to some, or many. How do you continue to be a great source of inspiration to those who follow you? In short, keep doing what you’re doing. Stay active in your field, continue learning, sharing, and growing.

However, since I’ve already cited two Forbes articles above, we’ll end with a third from Forbes: “How to Be a Great Mentor.” In this article, some of the advice echos what I’ve already stated above, and includes these key points:

  • Always know that your mentee can be anyone, anywhere
  • Always play both roles
  • Be committed
  • Listen
  • Have your own mentor(s) and network
  • Be open-minded and compassionate
  • Have patience
  • Be a role model
  • Care about the relationship

Now that you understand what it takes to find a mentor, how to be a good mentee, and how to be a good mentor, I hope you have a more complete view of the mentor/mentee relationship and can take better advantage of this very important relationship.

Now it’s your turn: how have you found mentors in the past? What invaluable pieces of advice have you learned from your mentors? How have mentors helped you in your career?

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