Greg is in a rut. Why a mentor can help him.
In a rut
He is working hard — too hard in his mind — but nothing is happening to his career. He has earned a reputation as a reliable workhorse, so his boss always dumps the hardest, most challenging, labor-intensive jobs on him and his team. While it is flattering that he is the “go-to” guy, he feels overlooked. His manager routinely emails Greg his performance reviews and spends face time with employees who have real performance issues. Greg rarely gets his own one-on-one time with his boss, and if he does, it is to discuss the project at hand — never to talk about Greg’s future.
Do any of Greg’s issues resonate with you?
Do you feel like your career is stalled and your current assignments have lost their appeal?
Are you missing opportunities to show what you can do?
Are you trying to fast track your learning but your supervisor doesn’t give you time or attention?
Are you confused about your career path and the best way to achieve your goals?
Do you need a good listener to bounce ideas off?
You might want to shake things up by finding a mentor to help you develop yourself so you can move forward.
Why Greg can benefit from a mentor
Those who engage in mentoring relationships are less stressed, learn more quickly, increase their productivity, and create safety nets for themselves. They make better decisions about their careers and are adept at finding the right mentor to help them navigate their organization.
Who makes for a good mentor?
There are senior people in Greg’s organization that he looks up to who have achieved a level of professionalism that he aspires to. However, level of achievement and prestige are not the only criteria to consider. Here are some important factors Greg might consider in choosing his mentor:
Does this person have the time to mentor me?
Even if someone holds the right position, if they don’t have time to meet with you once or twice a month, you won’t reap the full benefit of mentoring.
Are they committed to mentoring and helping a junior person?
Not every successful person is interested in helping others achieve success. Your mentor should earnestly want you to succeed.
Do they have the knowledge, experience and/or skills you seek?
It is easy to be drawn to someone you like, admire and already feel comfortable with. However, if a potential mentor’s talents don’t line up with your needs, you will end up making a bad trade-off, sacrificing chemistry and comfort for learning.
Do they possess strong interpersonal skills?
Mentoring requires conversation — the ability to share ideas and listen. Mentors don’t just give you the answers — they help you discover answers on your own. They probe and ask questions that make you think more deeply and differently. Mentors need to possess the interpersonal skills that build trust.
Will your styles gel?
You don’t have to be best friends, but you don’t want to select someone based solely on personality. That will be insufficient in the long run, but you do have to want to spend time together. If you don’t enjoy each other — you won’t learn.
Will this person challenge you to be your personal best?
While a mentor/mentee relationship requires a secure foundation — mentees grow the most when they are pushed out of their comfort zone. The best mentors challenge you to take on assignments and reach beyond your grasp. Or stretch beyond….
Will they give you candid feedback?
Ultimately, you will grow the most through conversations that help you see yourself through others’ eyes. Frank feedback is a gift that one rarely receives in the workplace without a hidden agenda. A good mentor is committed to your growth and development. Feedback will help you decide where to focus your efforts.
Making the ask — without the fear
Not surprisingly, Greg is timid about having to ask a senior leader to be his mentor. He has a lot of voices in his head telling him why it is a stupid idea.
“Why would they want to work with me?”
“What if they don’t think I am smart enough?”
Or, “who the hell is this guy?”
It helps to remember that most successful leaders attribute much of their own success to their own mentors. Remember, too, that mentors get something back in return. In fact, most mentors enjoy the opportunity to connect with younger employees and learn about different areas of the organization. They feel rewarded knowing their experience, ideas and wisdom are valued. And, they enjoy watching someone develop as a result of their efforts. It is personally flattering to be asked to be a mentor.
The actual ask
Talk about your career goals, aspirations and areas for development.
Ask them about their struggles early in their career.
Share why you want them to be your mentor — without being overly solicitous.
Ask them if they would have the time (an hour/month, for example) to meet to help you work on your development.
Discuss how you might make the relationship work and what you would expect or need from each other.
Remember, if they turn you down, ask them to recommend someone else.
Mentoring can make a significant difference in Greg’s future — and it can make a big difference for you too! Don’t let fear and doubt get in the way of seeking a mentor who will challenge you to be your best. Dare to make the ask, and you will soon be on your way.
Photo: Flickr / Charlievdb CC BY-NC-ND 2.0