Superheroes and Mentors are Basically the Same Thing
Remember when you were a kid, you would sit on the floor, your face just inches from the TV, watching your favorite superheroes save the world? You’d think to yourself, “Dang, when I grow up, I want to be JUST LIKE the red Power Ranger.” Adulting is kind of like that. Except, instead of trying to save mankind from evil villains, you aspire to be like Mr(s). Bigwig from upper-management…y’know, the one with their own parking spot?
You hear it from the first day of college: Network, network, network. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. However, a second, less emphasized, component of professional development is mentorship.
To quote Forbes (2017), “Perhaps no business leader has reached success without the benefit of a mentor to guide him or her through the inevitable peaks and valleys of business.” I mean seriously, think of all the greats: Luke Skywalker was mentored by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, Harry Potter was mentored by Professor Dumbledore, and Mr. Miyagi mentored the Karate Kid – wax on, wax off!
So, my advice? Network, network, network, find yourself a mentor.
The “Right” Mentor
The right mentor can help their mentee reach new heights and tap into potential they might not have otherwise found. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a mentor/mentee relationship comes naturally. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, explains, “If someone has to ask the question, ‘Will you be my mentor,’ the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious.”
So, while you’re patiently waiting for the right person, prepare yourself for the journey.
Being a Good Mentee
Being a mentee is not a passive role; like all healthy, successful relationships, they must be tended to. Christina Urciuoli, HR Training Specialist and Program Coordinator of Maser Consulting’s Mentorship Program, explains oftentimes mentees mistakenly believe the brunt of the responsibility lies on the mentor. This is a common misconception.
“Often times mentees won’t have specific goals in mind before starting the program; they think their mentor will suggest ‘good’ goals,” she continues, “My advice is to set specific, measurable goals yourself. This way, your mentor can advise you on how to reach them.”
At my Firm, employees can volunteer to be a mentor, or mentee, and are paired depending on goals. When you volunteer to participate, mentors fill out a field explaining what they bring to the table, and mentees list their goals. It’s crucial mentees have at least one goal for this program to be effective. “We look at what the employee wants to improve and match them with a mentor who we believe is best suited to help them achieve that,” Christina said.
Like most of us mere mortals, it’s easier to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. But the best mentors are the ones who can fill gaps in your skillset, like Peter Parker needing Iron Man to help him recognize his own shortcomings.
E for Effort
While mentoring relationships are beneficial for both parties, the focus of mentoring is on the mentee. Your mentor’s role is to facilitate and guide your professional development, not do it for you. What is she going to tell me to do? What goals will she suggest achieving? How many times a week will we chat? These are questions you should have a preference for, prior to beginning the program.
Once your program kicks off, keep note of weekly obstacles and potential topics of conversation for your upcoming meeting with your mentor. Alternatively, if you have planned a smaller goal for your next meeting, be sure to commit to it. What you put in, is what you get out.
Let’s be honest, you’re first mentoring relationship isn’t going to transform you from the young grasshopper to the master; it’s not designed for that. What it is designed for is to help you satisfy your present career goals. For example, if you work in a technical company and you don’t have a technical background, a great goal would be to gain an in-depth understanding of your company overview.
If you feel awkward in your mentor relationship, don’t get discouraged, you’re not alone. Any new relationship takes times to get adjusted to each other. Continue to have an open mind and remind yourself of the overall goal of this experience: to become a better you!
Voila! In the matter of mere minutes, you’ve become an expert at being a novice! If you’re a part of a mentorship program, or have an informal mentor, let us hear your thoughts! As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time I ask, “Am I Doing This Right?”.
To my fellow millennials: I know we hate talking to people, but we unfortunately gotta do it. Check out the experts talking about client communication, here.