Yes, it’s YOUR career, but you can’t build it all by yourself. Consider a mentor.
To really develop your career, you need more than technical expertise, and more than online courses, college classes or the latest, buzziest business book.
You need judgment, wisdom, a knack for taking appropriate actions and making good decisions. How do you learn these? Well, there’s trial and error. And there’s also learning from a mentor – someone who’s already traveled the path.
To pick the right mentor, you’ve first got to define your career goals, have clear objectives for the relationship, and a list of what you want to learn. This way, you can find someone with experience in the role that interests you.
A peer or a manager can be a mentor. It could be someone who works in your company, or in another industry. The key is to find someone with the knowledge you’re seeking.
It also helps if you have some insight into your learning style, strengths and weaknesses – so your mentors can understand how you learn and how they can help you reach your objectives.
Since mentors serve as role models and tend to have their own ideologies, it’s important for them to be well-respected and trustworthy. They should have good listening skills, they should be impartial, supportive and well-connected. After all, you want them to introduce you to their professional network.
It’s not unusual to have a series of mentors. Some might be good at helping you acquire board-room skills, others might coach you women on succeeding in a certain style of technical management.
One more thing: Having a mentor requires a real time commitment from both of you.
And, it requires open-mindedness. A good mentor is going to give you constructive criticism, which sometimes is tough to hear.
But remember: Constructive criticism can help you learn a lot about yourself, and an honest mentor may point out things your colleagues won’t.