As the old saying goes, everything in life happens for a reason. The good things in your career are directly connected with your actions and the fact that you’re in complete control. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As a business owner, over the years I’ve made my fair share of good calls, lots of bad calls and more that could’ve gone either way but for the luck of the draw.
One thing’s for certain. Everything that mattered – every aspect that has made a real difference in my career – was influenced by others. But, who are these “others” I’m talking about? Some people call them mentors, but I prefer to avoid that term. Never used it when it came to them, neither did them. Regardless of what you call them, it all went down something like this:
Two people just so happen to walk into a room. One of them opens the door with either a question or a problem, while the other one offers to tell a story and provide a piece of advice that for some reason sinks in and changes your perception.
Here are some surprising truths about mentors since the subject tends to come up frequently nowadays:
Mentors don’t wear labels. Nowadays, mentorship is considered as one of the most fabulous trends. I couldn’t disagree more. The people that used to mentor me were real people and they had real lives and jobs. First and foremost, they were a parental figure, a close friend, a professor, a coworker, a boss – everything but a mentor.
Timing is essential. A useful piece of advice that is going to sink in is considered to be a function of three related conditions: you’re in need, you open yourself up and a person speaks something that resonates with you. This begs the question: why that particular person? Maybe you’re drawn in some instinctive way, but in most cases it’s situational.
Instead of longing for them to say to you what you want to hear, try paying attention to what they’re actually saying. If you’re trying to find a mentor just so that a person is going to reinforce your beliefs, stop wasting your time and that of the other person. Some of the best advice I was offered was when I heard what I didn’t really want to hear. And that always amounted to lots of work on my part.
If you are not going to ask, you won’t get any answers. People tend to be a little too shy when it comes to revealing certain aspects about themselves or even asking some of their peers for help. Just go ahead and ask, people won’t bite. Just put yourself out there and you’ll see that people will be happy and eager to help you whether it’s just a little chat or some advice.
While logic and information usually make sense to us, only stories or anecdotes can actually move us to change a long-held belief.
People that are awesome at mentoring and that come highly recommended are able to coach you on specific skills, yet still keep things professional. Avoid conflicts of interest, personal entanglements and those out to make a quick buck off you.
Search for empathy and experience rather than ego. Experience should always resonate with a person and the less ego, the better. Receiving advice should be about respecting the person that offers the advice in the first place.
Hope you found this article useful. If you have any more tips on how a mentor has helped you in your career, we welcome you to leave your thoughts and answers in the comment section.