By Debbie Peterson
Why is it that we think we have to have everything figured out? How come we have to have all of the answers when we don’t expect anyone else to? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of? Someone who champions you and can make suggestions and introductions? Would you like to more easily acquire skills or knowledge to advance your career?
If you are serious about taking your career or business to the next level, then the one thing you need to know is that you won’t do it alone. You need a mentor.
By definition, mentoring is simply when someone who is more experienced or knowledgeable helps to guide someone who is less so. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that the mentor needs to be older or even in the same industry. It doesn’t even have to be a time-consuming relationship.
Early on in my career, I needed to familiarize myself with company financials so I would be able to have at least a basic understanding of them. I asked my friend who was an accountant to guide me through them, and during a series of lunches, we reviewed them and I got to ask lots of questions. That was mentoring. Even though she was much younger than me and worked in a different department, she was a subject mentor.
She had the knowledge and I made the ask, which is a crucial point – I made the ask. You have to be willing to ask for what you need from a mentor, but that requires that you know what type of mentor you’re looking for according to your goals for your career or business. Here are some other types of mentors or mentoring categories:
Career mentors: This is someone you meet with routinely and for a specified period of time, say six or nine months or more. In a more formal career mentoring relationship, you’d be wise to have structure and goals around what you wish to accomplish with your (and their) time. This gets you the guidance you need to develop your career overall.
Group mentoring: This is when someone mentors a group of individuals. I recently spoke at a women’s affinity group on this exact topic, and essentially I was mentoring them on mentoring. Perhaps someone in your office is willing to present their knowledge related to a certain topic to a group of people for a group mentoring experience. What do you want to learn? Chances are there are others who do too.
Mentoring moments: This happens when you make an ask for a specific reason and at a specific time. Perhaps you want to increase your negotiation skills so the next time someone in purchasing is going to have a call or meeting you can sit in and then debrief after. Maybe you want to understand contracts better so if you know someone from legal, you might take them to lunch and ask them to explain some of the legal jargon in layman’s terms.
There are also virtual mentors. These are the books you read, courses you take, coaches you work with, YouTube videos you watch all for the goal of increasing knowledge, skills and gaining advice and wisdom.
So how do you find a mentor? They are most likely right in front of you. Once you get clear on what it is that you need to achieve in your career or business, pay attention to the people you work with or meet who have the skills you need to succeed. Then make the ask.
Debbie Peterson of Getting to Clarity, works with professionals to develop the mindset that elevates their performance to the next level. If you’re interested in the program, The Successful Mentoring Mindset, reach out to
Photo credit: iStock.com/skynesher