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This success tip is about the value of mentors.
Harvey Mackey, author of Swimming With The Sharks Without Getting Eaten Alive, shares “Study 100 persons in the world you’ll find almost always, those successful people had mentors.” Finding a mentor is by far one of the quickest ways to get where you want to in your career, wherever that may be.
First you must clearly define your goals. Write them down, and figure out a plan of attack. Once you have a few clearly defined goals, look to those around you who have the career you want, doing the things you want to do. Reach out to them and ask for their help.
You don’t always have to look too far, consider mentoring with those around you sharing the same challenges. The best advice may be from people facing the same issues. Look for a role model, someone who possibly shares a similar background or philosophies. Mentors like to see a bit of themselves in their mentees. After a few meetings or phone conversations you should have a good idea if the chemistry is right. It’s not about the quantity of time you spend with a mentor; it is about the quality of time.
I reached out to Geno Stampora many years ago, and he has been my speaking mentor; Vicki Peters has been my teaching mentor; and Jan McCormick has been my writing mentor for the past 20-plus years. I have always been able to get a great deal of information from a small amount of time with each one of these individuals.
I just come right out and ask if I can add this person to my network and call them on occasion to share insights. Decide early on what you mentor-mentee arrangement will look like, whether is a monthly face-to-face meeting supplemented by weekly emails and phone contact. Set some boundaries about confidentiality, time commitments and the areas in which the mentor can have the most positive effect. You have a responsibility to make it worth your while as well as worth theirs.
Be a good student and show your mentor that you value their information by using it to further your career. Not using your mentors advice is like buying the firewood but not starting the fire. Growth from mentors is about taking their guidance and constantly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Geno once told me “All growth comes from outside the comfort zone.”
Remember you must be willing to bring something to the plate as well. I have been proud to be able to turn the tables on occasion and be the one who offers advice. Mentors are truly about reaching a hand down and pulling you up. It’s not crowded at the top. The only thing better than getting to the top is helping others get there as well. Mentors might be a few moves ahead of you in the game and that vantage point can make all the difference. They see what you can’t see, share what you can’t know.
Look for a mentor that is constantly growing themselves. Mentors can be someone you’ve never met, even from the past. Books written about or by successful people can be just as helpful in guiding your career. Passion by Susie Carder Fields helped shape the professional I became and she was one of my first real mentors without one conversation ever taking place. I was able to meet her years later and thank her for that important mentorship.
The greatest journey begins with a single step. You can read about and even meet wonderful, inspirational people, but it takes more than being inspired—it takes action.
I’ll end with a quote by Ruth Whitman: "In every art, beginners must start with models of those who have practiced the same art before them. And it is not only a matter of looking at the drawings, paintings, musical compositions and poems that have been and are being created; it is a matter of being drawn into the individual work of art, of realizing that it has been made by a real human being, and trying to discover the secret of its creation.”
I know quite certainly that mentors hold the key to those secrets.
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