“I get by with a little help from my friends” is more than a catchy lyric-turned-tv-theme-song for one of the most memorable shows of the early 90s. It’s how you need to think about managing your career.
People love the idea of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and squeezing into this narrow image of success, no matter how distorted from reality. The truth is everyone benefits from having a support network, especially when navigating his or her career.
You know the best way to get career help? Finding the right mentor. And in case you thought this is optional, here are the twelve most humble reasons you NEED to have a career mentor:
1. You don’t know as much as you think
Yeah – I said it. No matter how much of a self-made man or woman you see when you look in the mirror, you can always find someone who can teach you something to make your life easier
2. You can learn from your career mentor’s mistakes
The wrong mistake at the right time can set your career back years if not permanent. Most with the slightest bit of sense concede that point. The point that goes overlooked all too frequently is the concept of “accelerators”. In consulting, some of the biggest assets we have are accelerators – intellectual property developed through trial and error to avoid making the same mistakes again. They guarantee we can deliver value sooner than someone starting from scratch.
Now think about your career for a minute. If someone had the blueprint for how to get your next promotion, would that not pique your interest?
3. You can build your network faster
Whether you want to change companies or move into a new position at your current company, people who come via referral have an advantage. The bigger your network, the more opportunity you have for someone to refer you for business or an open job. The days of applying cold to jobs haven’t completely disappeared, but I’m certain the yield on this job search approach will continue declining.
4. You crave targeted professional development
Want to build your skill set faster? Imitate your mentor’s professional development regimen. Part of making yourself “recession proof” is staying on top of trends in your field. A good mentor knows that and can help you get the most bang for your buck (and time) when it comes to reinvesting in yourself to stay on top of your game.
5. You have a high-level blueprint for the career you want to make for yourself
Or at least that’s what you think, but the devil’s in the details. A mentor can help you turn your lofty vision into actionable, achievable goals. Not to mention the oft-overlooked reality-check you might need when you foolishly plan to take over the world over a weekend.
6. You have a chance of being heir to your mentor’s throne
Nepotism exists. You might as well position yourself to capitalize on it, right?
7. You have someone who will always tell you the truth
The higher you up you make it in the business world, the harder it will be to find people with unconditional honesty. Aside from the previously mentioned reality check you may need every now and again, having a sounding board for all types of decisions comes in handy. Career change? Staffing issues with people who work for you? Business concept viability? Yes, yes, and yes.
8. You need reminders to avoid getting complacent
Once you hit a big milestone, it’s easy to become complacent. For me, it was passing the CPA exam a year after finishing undergrad. My epiphany that I needed to keep my ambition alive came in two stages. First, I realized my job didn’t align with the career I wanted. Second, getting career I dreamed about required additional academic work and taking some calculated risks to create some job search luck. Without mentors’ (and my wife’s support), I’d still be slowly climbing up the corporate ranks instead of challenging myself with something more fulfilling.
9. You want someone to celebrate your victories with you
Nothing bursts your bubble like someone incapable of seeing the triumph in your achievements deeming your excitement excessive. Surrounding yourself with people who appreciate the effort you put in to reach your goals makes celebrating your milestones much sweeter.
10. Commiseration is good for the soul
On the other hand, you have to know things won’t always go your way. Having someone close to you who can relate to the gut-wrenching experience of a decision gone bad allows you to bounce back quickly and try again. The positive energy people share to build you back up is the power source that keeps you from burning out.
11. Your career will hit a ceiling without one
Two kinds of people that don’t get far in the business world: the know-it-all and the hermit. Odds are if you don’t have a mentor you fall into one of these categories. So unless you’re running your own shop, you may want to think twice about the lone wolf approach.
12. You’ll learn how to mentor
The most important part of the corporate circle of life is paying it forward. I remember the first time I heard an organization use the motto “lifting as we climb” and my surprise at the power of such a short phrase. Talent pipeline is just as important as customer pipeline for longevity of a business, and they go hand-in-hand more than some care to admit. Learning how to effectively engage and challenge your team members helps them (and you) get the most out of their careers. Bonus benefit: your customers will feel the positive difference too.
Now it’s your turn. What do you value most about the mentors in your life? Looking forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments.