Mentors – For Everyone

The topic of mentoring came up at the office recently.  The context was a guest lecture that our VP of Service Delivery was giving at Mohawk College, but I think I’d like to take the opportunity to extend it to everyone else.

Getting ahead in life and career is always difficult.  Despite the wealth of information at our fingers, it is still very difficult to choose the correct solution to life’s complex problems.  Guidance for many of these is best delivered by someone with first-hand experience in similar situations, not a search engine.  I think we all realize the intrinsic value of having a confidant that we can bounce our ideas off and who can challenge us with us with the difficult questions, share their experiences and provide guidance.

A formal mentor program has its place, but the highest value mentor is one that happens naturally.  One that isn’t bound or forced along with any formality.  Whether you are a student starting a career, or you are the CEO of a successful business, the value of finding mentors can’t be understated.

Finding Mentors

Note the use of the plural.  I pride myself on having a number of people I consider mentors.  Some of them work for me, some work for different companies, some work in different industries.  I have a mentor for each aspect of my life I’m working to develop.  What they all have in common, is that they have at least one area of expertise in which they have drastically more experience and knowledge than I.  When you seek out people to mentor you, likely the easiest part is figuring out the individual in your social or employment circle with the deepest experience and expertise.  These people naturally sort to the top.  The next question is, how can you convince them to spend time mentoring you?  I don’t think I’ve ever approached someone with the line “Will you mentor me?”.  The approach that is most successful is to speak with the person, share the challenge you are having and ask for their input.  Offer a coffee, lunch, or my favourite – beer in return for their thoughts.  You want to accomplish two things.  The first is a personal connection, if you succeed in connecting at a personal level, then your mentor will be emotionally invested in your success.  The second is simply to extract some of that knowledge and guidance you are looking for.  The good news is that most people are happy to have an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and help lead someone else to success.

Outgrowing Your Mentor

There may come a point when your expertise and experience rivals your mentor.  This is great news.  This does not mean your mentor no longer has value.  Quite the opposite, they now become a highly valuable peer who has great insight to you and your past and can continue the role of sounding board and coach.  The even better news, is you can now return the favour.  This does mean however that you need to seek out more mentors that can take you to the next level.

Leveraging Forward

From parenting to technical skills to business leadership, a network of coaches and mentors will ensure that you are able to find the guidance and answers to the complex challenges life throws your way.  Ideally, not just meet those challenges but master them and grow beyond expectations.  It really is the only way to gain experience beyond your years.

While you’re at it, next time someone asks for a few moments of your time to help them out – make sure you do.  It always comes back around.

3 Responses to “Mentors – For Everyone”

  1. I agree with yor. People have different mentors for different times in their lives depending on what personal level you are at the time.

    Take a look at my post called ” Why a mentor?”

  2. Reblogged this on Enterprise Computing Speedbumps and commented:
    very true!

  3. Reblogged this all over FB. Thanks for the post!

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