In the post, More than a Network: Your Career Coaching Team, I recommended you find groups of people to fill at least 5 kinds of key roles-network connectors, advisers, idea people, emotional connectors and success partners.
That’s for anyone, but especially for anyone seeking to change or advance their career or about to embark on a job search.
But some people also need a sixth kind of person, someone who knows the ropes in a particular job, company or industry. That’s a career or business mentor.
This is a person who’s been there, done that and is willing to help you navigate your specific situation. You may think you know better than others in your company or industry how to go about doing things and DON’T want to do the same old same old thing everyone has done. You want to innovate and make a name for yourself. You don’t want to follow old advice and look like everyone else. You may even have been hired specifically to bring in a fresh perspective.
To Do Something New, Talk to Someone Who’s Seen the Old
Guess what? If you’re thinking that way, you REALLY need a mentor. Not to conform to the old ways of doing things that are unproductive, but in order to understand how to get things done, how to move your bold new ideas forward, what the inner workings of your company is, who to connect with to move things ahead and how to approach these people.
They can also tell you if your brilliant new idea is what got someone else fired when it went down in flames 6 months ago They have company or industry history and understand the culture. These are things you simply won’t know if you are new in a company.
You can try out a potential mentor relationship by asking questions of possible mentors. You probably won’t want to choose your immediate boss or manager as you may need advice about working with them or be free to say things you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with that person. But people higher up are possible, and don’t overlook your peers who, if they are knowledgeable about the company, can be mentors sometimes too.
Know What You Want
But before you ask someone to be a mentor or even develop that relationship you should decide what you want from a mentor. What kinds of questions do you need answered, what kind of advice, what kind of networking support within your company or industry. Without that, you and your potential mentor will be floundering.
Take your time approaching people, and check out the chemistry. Maybe you’ve had mentors at school or in other companies before. Look to these experiences for examples of what things work for you and what don’t.