May 14, 2007

Get a career mentor

One of the secrets of success I have come across a lot when I interact with successful people is that they have rarely learned everything themselves.

A lot of them have great mentors who shorten the learning cycle and become useful sounding boards when they are faced with any kind of questions or dilemmas.

When I use the term career mentor I also mean a career coach, and while there are differences in these words, the person I am basically asking you to get for yourself is a senior person, who will be your friend, philosopher and guide.

But why would he/she be a mentor for you?

It starts with the chemistry. People get drawn to people who are like them or whom they role model. While organizations can choose mentors/coaches without focusing on chemistry, if you want one who would guide you in your work life, then chemistry and personal relationship becomes very important.

Usually your chosen mentor would be in a similar industry and function like you want to pursue. Helping them keep up with news and new developments will also help them realise that a mentoring relationship is likely to help them too. It's not only the mentors who help in mentees learning. In a lot of ways, reverse mentoring is quite common. If you two can strike a complimentary balance, it's great.

Listen to the mentor, to learn. However, more than that, observe to learn. Often, the biggest learnings are not what the mentor does but how he/she does. Often, they are unaware of these. Observing them will help you get that insight. This is called tacit knowledge.

So who is your mentor?