A mentor has become one of those things that we are all ‘encouraged’ to have if we want to get anywhere in our career. But, do you REALLY need a mentor?
Mentoring is overrated, however there are ways you can leverage this approach if you apply these 4 career strategies.
A board of directors
It is important to have many mentors, and not only rely on one person. In this way, you have access to a wide range of people whom you may seek guidance from. Example, have someone who inspires you across different aspects of your life . You could admire someone for living a healthy lifestyle, how they prioritize family, how they run their business, etc. Mentors can be more senior than you, junior or even peers. It depends on what you want to learn from them.
Would you like to be my mentor?
Let’s be honest, no one wants this pressure, it’s just too much to ask someone to be your ‘ultimate’ role model. I have never approached anyone to be my mentor, but I have a handful of people who I learn from across different topics. I have people who inspire me to: stretch myself at work, integrate home and family, look after myself, etc. Labelling the relationship is not required.
Additionally, approaching someone from scratch and asking them makes the relationship seem “forced” and one dimensional. I believe that a mentor and mentee relationship is beneficial if it is built on a foundation of mutual friendship and is mutually beneficial.
Having a sponsor is better
A sponsor is someone with decision-making influence in your organisation. They attend meetings higher up than the ones you attend and this person ‘leans in’ on behalf of you. You may not always know who your sponsors are but they use their social and political clout to support you. When a special assignment comes up, this person will advocate for you in your absence. A reality of the working world is that visibility of your contributions (not the contributions by itself) is what will get you the recognition. A sponsor plays a key role in helping you achieve this visibility. By being a strong performer, adding value to the organisation and others you will acquire sponsors.
Stretch assignments have a big impact on growth
Let’s be honest, do you really need another company leadership programme or another mentor link up? Assignments with increased complexity have a strong impact on career growth, more so than what a mentor can provide. This is especially true for females, where companies invest heavily in implementing leadership programmes. The impact of sponsorship and growth experiences can have a bigger impact on career growth than a leadership programme.
In closing, have many mentors at all levels and ensure that these relationships are built on a foundation of friendship. Very importantly have sponsors, and ask for stretch assignments. Now go be a lady boss!
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