Many people go years without having a mentor. What’s the point of having a mentor? To tell you what to do? To tell you what you are doing wrong? In a subtle way, yes. They are there also there to help you progress and grow professionally and personally.
It is important that you look at a mentor as a guide. A person to help you navigate through foreign terrain and help you reach destinations you would never otherwise reach on your own. In other words, mentors are there to help you reach your goals and your potential. Along the way you’ll gain knowledge, perspective and learn things about yourself that you, yourself haven’t realized. I like to think of mentors as navigators on the roadmap to success that you can’t find on Google. Everyone’s experiences variable change in their career, thus, a strong navigator is essential.
Do you have a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? I highly recommend utilizing experienced personnel that may have had a similar path that you are currently on. You will need someone that can understand your aspirations and career path. Someone that has been there and done that.
Finding a mentor can take time. I have had a few mentors in my career and still have a few mentors I go to. As I reflect on the mentors I have and had, I believe mentors are meant to do three things. They listen, provide feedback and provide advice. I will break them down.
First, the mentee/mentor relationship, just like any relationship, begins with communication. A mentor will not able to help if they do not listen first. Listening is the basis of all communication. Mentors listen. The mentor will not be able to help you if they do not get to know who you are, what you have done and where you wish to go. The only way to get to know that information is for them to listen. Listening is key to building a relationship. For the mentee/mentor relationship to build, grow and thrive, listening is the most important factor. As communication is a two way street, you must also listen. You must listen to what your mentor has to say because mentors provide feedback.
Feedback is mentorship. It is critical that you know and understand things about areas you are doing well in and what areas need improvement. Feedback will provide you with this information.
Feedback plots you on the map of where you are going and how much fuel (development) you will need to get there. Through feedback we learn about our self. We become aware of what we’re good at and what we need help with. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to show us what we really know or don’t know, but more importantly what we need to do. This cannot be done without feedback and mentors are great at providing the feedback necessary for your advancement.
If feedback plots you on the map, then advice is what provides you with a direction to move in. To understand where you are is one thing, to understand where you are going is another. This is why receiving advice from a mentor is important. Feedback is data from the past and present. Advice is for future use. We must have a clear path for reaching the next checkpoint on the journey in our career and in our personal development.
When mentors provide you with advice, they provide you with the best possible path when you are uncertain of what to do or where to go on your map of growth. Mentors can assist with a new direction when circumstances change, when the road all of a sudden becomes blocked, or when you are experiencing rough terrain. Advice is a course of action.
As advice provides you the direction, your action to that advice moves you along the road. All of the words mean nothing without action. Mentors will provide the necessary feedback and advice, but it is up to you to take it and put it into action.
In closing, here are a few questions to challenge you to think about how a mentor could help you reach destinations you want to reach.
Without a mentor where are you now?
Without a mentor where will you be in the future?
With a mentor where could you be?
With a mentor where will you be?