Some of the most successful people in business today have mentors. As a career coach, I can say that mentors have made all the difference in my career development. Mentors helped inspire, guide and shape the person I am today. I firmly believe that, without key influencers, I would not have been able to secure a fulfilling career. Because I connected with the right people, I was able to reap the rewards from a powerful mentoring relationship.
Partnering propels you.
John Maxwell says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, take others with you.” There is a lot of truth in this. Only the very arrogant or very ignorant shun the unique insight that comes from partnering with the right mentor. Life’s lessons are best learned from others. Finding the right mentor could make the difference between floundering in your professional career or making it big.
A mentor can challenge you, inform you, connect you and inspire you. I spent many wasted years in my youth trying to bushwhack through the professional jungle alone. I was fiercely independent and determined that I could find the right answers on my own. For some reason, I thought asking for guidance was a weakness. I see now that I was a fool. Fortunately, someone saw past my stubbornness and gave me a chance to benefit from a mentoring relationship.
What makes a powerful mentoring relationship?
Not all mentors are made equal and not every successful professional can help you make a leap forward professionally. “Mentoring must be like a waterfall. What I pour into you, you must then pour into others,” said Mark Cole, CEO of the Maxwell Companies, during a recent Q&A session for Maximum Impact Mentoring members. The knowledge and wisdom gained from a solid mentoring relationship are not found with just anyone. There are proven insights into a powerful mentoring relationship to ensure that you find the best mentor for your career focus.
The Mentee’s Power Plan
1. Avoid being star-struck. Do not ask an idol to be a mentor. If you are in awe of someone, chances are you will not be in the mental position to retain the important information your mentor provides. Your brain will be too busy comparing your experience to your preconceived notions. You may not feel comfortable openly asking questions or even being yourself.
2. Define your idea of success. A successful mentoring relationship starts with someone you can look up to professionally. Clearly define what your idea of success looks like for your career focus. This will help guide you to find the right mentor. A professional who has proven success in their career and the experience to impart knowledge will be in a better position to aid you towards your goals.
3. Experience matters. Mentors cannot give what they don’t have. Experience matters. Inexperienced individuals will struggle to become successful mentors. Mentoring relationships with peers tend to be shorter and more narrowly focused. These can be beneficial if approached correctly. Mentoring relationships established with more experienced professionals usually allow the mentee to access additional knowledge depth. These types of partnerships can be transformational.
4. Seek support, not direction. A good mentor is someone that is fulfilled in what they do, professionally successful and has no vested interest in where you go in your career. A good mentor will only be interested in lifting you up and giving you the tools you need to succeed regardless of your path.
5. Be specific on the why. Define and explain why you approached a particular professional to be your mentor. As the mentee, you have everything to gain. The mentor is donating time and attention to you. You must have a tangible and specific reason why you asked someone to mentor you. “You make a lot of money” isn’t the most compelling reason to mentor someone.
6. Communicate your goal. What does a successful mentoring relationship outcome look like to you, and what specifically do you want to learn? Clearly communicate what your goal is from the partnership and why you are sure that your mentor can get you there.
7. Be prepared. As a mentee, you have a job to do. In addition to being a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge you can, you must also be prepared for each mentoring session. Best practices are:
• Take notes during each session.
• Determine actionable items at the end of each session.
• Be prepared to report on what you applied from the last session.
• Have questions prepared ahead of time for your mentor.
Transforming Your Career
A powerful mentoring relationship between two professionals can be mutually beneficial. The mentor also gains insight during the act of coaching another professional. But, not every powerful mentoring relationship takes place in person. I have benefitted tremendously in my life from unwitting mentors, such as John Maxwell and Simon Sinek. While I am fortunate to be in John’s mentoring circle with other like-minded professionals, I have also absorbed his teachings from seminars and books. The same applies to my mentoring relationship with Simon. While not meeting in person, I am still able to gain powerful knowledge from his published insights.
Any professional who strives for solo victories will discover that the road to success is rocky. It’s nice to have a helping hand over the hurdles. It took me valuable years to understand that a solid mentoring partnership can clear the path to success. In addition to the inspiration gained from a powerful personal mentoring relationship, there is much to be gained from published professionals as well. If you want to truly transform your career and propel yourself into success, I encourage you to develop a vision of the fulfilling future you desire and reach out to a mentor to help you along the way.