Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reader Question: Mentors for the Seasoned Professional

Image from: http://spearhead-solutions.net/

A reader wrote in and asked a great question: "How/where does a seasoned professional find a mentor to help him/her advance even further in their career, make a career change or simply provide ongoing advice and counsel?"

Thanks for that question! I have been thinking about an answer and wondered how much different would the approach to finding a mentor be if you were more advanced in your career rather than early on. I actually could not come up with any major differences.

I have authored two articles on finding mentors - "Tips for asking someone to be your mentor" and "Tips for finding a mentor when you're unemployed". In these articles I discuss developing a candidate mentor list. This is the first step to finding a mentor [edited below]:

Start off by making a list of folks that you already know that would make a good mentor in your opinion. Perhaps there's already someone in your life who you'd like to emulate and who has the time and inclination to do so. If you need help developing this list of mentor candidates then ask around. You should ask friends, family, current and former coworkers if they themselves have mentors or know people who do. It's all about networking!
Other suggestions to develop a candidate mentor list:
  1. Use your local industry group. Ask their leaders for ideas. Usually people who head local or national professional organizations have contacts who are willing to be mentors. They may even be interested in mentoring themselves.
  2. Your local religious group or organization may be a fruitful path. Private organizations such as these tend to cut across corporate hierarchical structure and afford you access to a wide variety of people too.
  3. If you work with vendors ask your contacts there for suggestions as they will likely know other folks in your industry (although you probably want to avoid people with whom you are in direct competition with).
The bottom line is to use your network. Networks are incredibly useful to help you find your next mentor or your next opportunity or even just some much needed advice.

As a seasoned professional myself I'm lucky to count among my informal mentors the CEO of a successful small digital media company and a world class public speaker and consultant in the digital marketing space. One was once a formal mentor and the other was a former co-worker albeit above me in the hierarchy. The key thing is to keep in touch and ensure the relationship remains meaningful to both parties.

You could also always consider going with a paid business/career coach. They've proven very effective with many a C-level professional who have retained their services.

I hope this post has been helpful. Good luck finding your mentor and keep those questions coming! If you have one click here to contact me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Making Time for Mentoring

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/people/notionscapital/

I saw this article entitled "Yes, you do have time to mentor" authored by Laura Vanderkam and published by FastCompany which I just had to share because I agree with all of it's points (except for one - mentioned in a bit). That one exception aside the main message of the article is a truth for me. It goes on to make some excellent suggestions on how to fit mentoring into a busy schedule.

The scheduling tips from the article are listed below but I strongly encourage you to read the short article for additional, important context:

  1. GO AHEAD, PLAY FAVORITES.
  2. SET YOUR PRIORITIES AND STICK TO THEM.
  3. MENTOR AS YOU MANAGE.
  4. BE ACCESSIBLE.
  5. MAXIMIZE ON YOUR TRAVEL TIME.
  6. BE A HOST.

Tip #3 "Mentor as you manage" goes on to state: "Hopefully, many people you want to mentor are, in fact, your direct reports". That's the one area where I diverge a bit from the article. Certainly a manager should always find ways to coach and enhance their employees' skills and overall career prospects. And I do recognize that management, coaching and mentoring overlap a lot. It is a recommendation though not to have your manager as a mentor because as a mentee you want to be as free as possible to speak your mind - sometimes about your manager. That could prove difficult when your mentor/manager also does your review and salary adjustment at year's end.

Go ahead and use these tips to fit mentoring into your life in some way. The activity benefits everyone involved. I'd like to leave you with my favorite phrase in the article:


"Mentoring is not a charitable act".