Gone are the days when “leader” generally meant a guy in a grey suit with a briefcase. These days a leader might be a jeans and tennis shoe wearing 20...
No Matter What Stage of Career You’re At
I’ve read enough books and articles about successful people to know that no one makes it to the top by themselves. Everyone who’s ever accomplished anything had a variety of mentors along the way.
The best way to climb a mountain is with a tour guide.
This is true no matter what stage of your career you’re at or how senior your role is. If you are just starting out in your career, finding a mentor is a no-brainer. But, even if you’ve been around the block a few times and are serving as a mentor to others, having one yourself is always a good idea. If you still have goals, if there are still places you want to go and things you want to accomplish, having a mentor can help you do it better and with greater efficiency.
If you read the above paragraph and thought, “Dan, you’re preaching to the choir. I would love to have a mentor, I just don’t know where to find one.” Stop reading right now and check out the Center for Credit Union Leadership’s Mentor Program, which will match you with a mentor that’s right for you.
If you still need some convincing, read on.
Here are 6 ways that having a mentor could help you in your career.
1. By giving you the chance to work with a role model.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re about to climb a mountain – a really big mountain – that’s uncharted. You don’t have a map and there are no paths or trails to follow. You know you want to get to the top, but don’t even know what you might need for the journey. Someone walks up beside you and says, “I’ve climbed this mountain a hundred times. Want me to guild you?” Unless you just really love doing things the hard way, you would accept. Of course you would.
So, it stands to reason that working with a role model – someone who’s already accomplished in their career what you want to accomplish in yours – could be really useful. They probably understand the career challenges you’re facing now, and can alert you to the challenges right around the corner. They’re also likely in a good position to help you figure out what skills you need to develop along the way.
Having a mentor is especially important for long term career goals. But, a role model mentor might also be a great way to get specific support on a short-term basis, such as a project that is pushing the boundaries of your current ability level, or if you are in the process of transitioning to a new position.
2. By helping you understand and focus on what you really want.
Often, we have a vague idea of what we want to do, but are so uncertain about the details. “I know I want to climb a mountain, but am not sure which one.”
People in this stage of their careers are in danger of climbing the wrong mountain. This happens all the time. You probably know – or have experienced yourself – people who have worked really hard to get somewhere only to arrive at the top and realize the mountain they really wanted was way off in the distance. A mentor who has your best interests in mind can help you stay focused on chasing after the kind of work you’re good at and enjoy.
3. By letting you learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Why make the mistake yourself if you can learn the lesson from someone who’s already made that mistake and is willing to tell you about it?
Anyone who’s done anything in this world has made their fair share of mistakes along the way. And, the right mentor, one who’s already climbed that mountain, has made the types of mistakes you’re likely to make as well.
If they’re willing to help you, that means that you get the benefit of their experiences and can learn what works and what doesn’t before you even begin the hike. More importantly, they’re likely to have reflected on why they failed and how they learned what to do to be successful. This information is pure gold and, if taken to heart, can save you years of struggle.
4. By keeping you accountable.
Why is it that breaking promises to ourselves is so darn easy? I mean, the stereotype of broken New Year resolutions basically teaches us that goals are made to be broken.
What’s interesting however, is that more often than not, when we make a commitment to someone else, the incentive to follow through suddenly becomes a lot greater. Even if you’re the type of self-disciplined person who eats broken promises for breakfast, there is something about sharing your intentions with someone who is committed to holding you accountable that makes it 100 times more likely that you will do what you say you will do. It’s just that simple.
5. By offering consistent positive AND constructive feedback
Even the most self-aware among us have trouble seeing themselves objectively. It’s just hard to get an accurate beat on how well you’re handling any given situation when you’re smack dab in the middle of it.
All sorts of things can get in the way… like pesky feelings of inadequacy or discomfort that make it seem like everything is going wrong, when you’re actually doing a great job. Or, on the flip side, feelings of grandeur that are blinding you to the fact that you’re actually making a mess of things.
In times like these, a good mentor will step in and offer honest, objective insight that you really can’t get any other way.
6. By giving you access to a wider network.
Having a mentor isn’t about using them for who they know. But, a well-connected mentor is likely to introduce you, from time to time, to other people who can give you the help you need when you need it. Since accomplishing our goals is often about who we know more than what we know, this is an invaluable aspect of the mentor-mentee relationship.
Convinced that you need a mentor?
Here’s the catch: Finding the right mentor at the right time is challenging. And, even if you do, asking them to commit to mentoring you is daunting. Should you conquer your fears, ask them to mentor you and they accept, now what? What does the arrangement look like and how do you make it work?
That’s what the Center for Credit Union Leadership’s Mentor Program is all about. The program connects people like you with mentors that will help asses and develop your leadership philosophy through face to face meetings and a structured Leadership Development Plan. The process, developed by the Center, examines your leadership values, assumptions, and beliefs to create a plan and goals for your mentor guide you through.
If that sounds good to you, visit the Foundation Website for more information and to apply.