I’ve had a few conversations with friends, family and colleagues about personal growth recently where a common theme that kept coming up was the lack of support within organisations to help personal and career development. It can be frustrating when you know that you need to grow or develop, but do not have the support structure to facilitate that.
One way to get around this is to find yourself a mentor or a career counselor. Speaking through experience, I think of a mentor as a trusted advisor, someone I can discuss various topics with whilst feeling comfortable about it.
I first had a mentor when I was about a year into my career – although I didn’t realise I was being mentored at the time. We worked on projects together over a few month period and not only did I learn a lot of technical skills from him, but also learnt a lot about the world of consulting. I have sought his counsel several times since and to this day he remains not only one of my close friends but also a good source of inspiration for me.
Since then, I’ve had a few informal mentors throughout my career. Many of them have been around to impart their wisdom and guidance when I needed it most.
More recently, realising that I needed help to work through a range of ideas and development intiatives, I approached one of my contacts whom I highly respected and he agreed to be my mentor. We have a formal engagement model, and we meet regularly to discuss developments, progress on actions, issues, questions, brainstorm ideas, and so on. This engagement process has helped me through a challenging period in my career and is shaping the direction I am now heading in. I admit, I am still a work in progress. But then again, I always will be!
Based on personal experience, I am a firm believer in having mentors in your career, be it formal or informal. In the early stage in your career it helps to have a mentor in the same industry as you. However, as times goes on it does help to have someone who can bring different perspectives to the table.
Below are some links to articles on the topic which I hope will be useful to you:
- Demystifying Mentoring
- Three Questions to Advance Your Career
- Engage a Mentor with a Short-Term Project
- Find the Right Mentor During a Career Transition
Finally, I would love to hear any thoughts or experiences you may have had, that could be shared with other readers. Have you had experience of being mentored or even been a mentor yourself? How have you gained from such an arrangement?