Like so many things in life, finding a dedicated mentor today may not be as simple as it was for previous generations. But it’s still just as crucial for your professional development.
As the current COO of Hawke Media, founder of 1099.me, and a former district manager in the direct sales industry, I’ve recruited and trained more than 2,000 people. Along the way, I’ve developed lasting friendships and strengthened my coaching techniques.
I’ve also noticed a few consistencies that you should be aware of and consider when seeking a mentor.
1. No matter the mentor, it’s up to you to execute. Even if you score a mentor as great as Elon Musk or Richard Branson, he or she is going to challenge you to do work on yourself and your professional endeavors. And that responsibility ultimately falls squarely on your shoulders.
For example, I mentored a young woman once who was incredibly eager to receive my advice. While attentive — taking copious notes, asking questions, and radiating enthusiasm — she always seemed to fold as soon as the slightest adversity struck. As inevitable challenges surfaced, she continually needed to be “motivated” to get back to work.
I can provide strategies and guidance, but I’m with Tony Robbins when he says he hates being referred to as a “motivational speaker.” She developed more resolve and saw success, but the process became frustrating for me and tested my patience.
2. Take your mentor off the pedestal. We are all human; we make mistakes and have bad moments. Be mature enough to filter the advice you receive, and show compassion and empathy when you don’t always get your mentor’s A-game. They face demands and challenges, too.
I was once introduced to a man whom I’d respected from a distance, having only seen the public persona that supported his stellar reputation. When I began working with him directly, his comments about other people and his apparent greed were really off-putting. Those attributes, combined with an outsized ego, ultimately led to us parting ways.
I was naïve to believe his character was impeccable. Furthermore, if people are successful (and older than you), they likely believe in what they are doing and how they are doing it — so don’t expect them to change. Had I approached the relationship more realistically, I could have learned more and grown a lot.
3. Working with a mentor is like getting in shape — be patient. Working with a mentor is like working out and eating right; one day won’t make much of a difference, but the net effect in the aggregate can be profound. Don’t expect immediate results. Every relationship of consequence takes time to develop a cadence for communication, rapport, and a desired set of outcomes. Moreover, even the best-laid plans can go south or require iteration.
For instance, I worked with a student about to graduate from a prestigious college who wanted to pursue a career in music. He expected to learn everything about the music business inside of a few conversations and then hit the road on his national tour. He was so shortsighted that he took a lot of early missteps — undoubtedly costing himself time and opportunities by rushing foundational knowledge and advice.
Process is important, and taking shortcuts can actually cost you more time. Thankfully, he stayed humble throughout the experience and was much more patient in our future conversations.
4. Even the best mentors aren’t psychic. Communicate your goals upfront. Articulate desired outcomes, and make your own course corrections. If you’re not getting what you want out of the relationship, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Plus, your mentor will tremendously appreciate your candor when it’s appropriate.
For instance, I was surprised to learn that the young woman I was mentoring told a peer I wasn’t very helpful. When I asked her if she was dissatisfied with my mentorship, she said I focused too much on “sales stuff” and she had really just wanted to learn about marketing.
When we next met, I discussed the importance of communicating clear expectations with her. Needless to say, I wasn’t incredibly fired up about helping her moving forward.
Building a career is challenging, making a mentor who is willing to provide insight and offer alternative approaches to obstacles an invaluable resource when you’re just starting out. Once you find the right one, embrace his or her knowledge and advice, but make your own decisions, and remember to self-advocate.
Good mentors thrive on feedback — after all, your success is their success.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community