Having someone guide you in today’s world of work is not an easy task. Each of us have someone or the other we can turn to in times of crisis, the one we call as mentors. Mentors have played so many crucial roles in our lives. But how many of these are from our workplace?
When looking for advice, we most often go to the most convenient sources, but not necessarily the right ones. Too often people have not developed their own networks, so they ask for advice from the person right in front of them. Perhaps it is their boss, or colleagues at their company. Often it is their spouses, parents, or friends.
Is this the best way to find a mentor?
I agree friends are great supporters, but do they really know how you can put your skills to the best use, to an industry that may be different from theirs? Your mother might be your biggest fan, but does she know your worth in the marketplace?
And mentors at work? The way mentoring is approached inside companies is outmoded. Most often, mentoring takes place infrequently, possibly once or twice a year, and at specified times, most probably during a performance review.
That is a mistake—most people don’t feel receptive and open at a time when economics are at stake. The truth is mentors do not exist like the way you think.
Who would not want a no-cost relationship with an important person who could guide you along your career path?
If mentors are so great, why doesn’t everyone have one?
Imagine your co-worker, whom you barely know asking you to mentor him. What would you think? Without knowing the person, their work ethic, goals, capabilities, history… wouldn’t it be an awkward thing to respond to?
The same lies in work places. We cannot fault companies for doing a bad job at finding mentors for employees. It is hard to cultivate at under-resourced, fast-paced startups. And as bigger companies are experiencing reduced employee tenure and company longevity, there is no longer an opportunity to receive years of coaching from one boss.
Additionally, middle management has been slashed, meaning there are fewer folks with enough bandwidth to help, competition is fierce, and in some cases, people worry about training their own replacement.
We live in a different time. It is the age of entrepreneurship. Today’s companies do not wish to provide mentoring or “take care” of employees in the same parental way that defined the past. And neither will the future hold any good to mentoring. That is why it is said that in future, mentoring relationships will not develop in the office; they will come from a network culled from a variety of areas.
That is a better approach; you gain access to the best and brightest minds that have the most experience specifically relevant to you and your dreams. This external board of advisers can offer insight, direction, and introductions. It is also better to have several mentors as opposed to just one, because no mentor will be correct on what you should do 100% of the time.
So, how do you find your best mentor?
- Search for the best one in your industry. The one who does your current job or the position you desire. Use LinkedIn, the new arena for working people. Connect and you might find your wishes come true.
- Seek advice from the best people, people who love to mentor. Ask what success looks like and carve a path to achieve it.
- Accept whatever work is assigned and bring value to the network. Knowingly or unknowingly, you may have the assets they desire. Ask what you can do to help your mentors. No matter how dark the tunnel is, there is always light at the end.