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Finding a Mentor

Q: The last five years, I’ve managed to move up in my career based entirely upon my inherent skills and ability to learn quickly. Now I’m at a point where having a mentor has become more important. How can I find my “yoda”, who will be amenable to giving me feedback on my performance and teaching me the ropes?

A: If your manager isn’t mentor material, you’ll need to develop opportunities beyond his circle of influence. There are many ways to extend your visibility within your company, industry, and career field. Here are some of them:

  • Work on operations that involve cross-functional teams and require input from multiple areas. Collaborate with colleagues in other parts of the company, win their respect and build relationships. Then if you want a mentor somewhere else in the organization or an eventual transfer, they’ll be eager to help.

  • If there’s an ad hoc task force to improve quality, go green, reduce expenses, develop a new product, install an advanced computer system, etc., volunteer to serve on it. Working together toward a common goal is a great way to meet and make friends with people throughout the company.

  • Play on the firm’s softball team. Volunteer for its charitable projects. Join one of its wellness classes.

  • Attend in-house training programs and make an effort to meet your fellow participants. If possible, determine ahead of time with whom you want to network.

  • Ask acquaintances from other departments out to lunch at least twice a month. Find out what they’re doing and look for common interests.

  • Build your relationship with your manager’s boss. That person has the power to make your career goals a reality. Look for opportunities to present reports or represent your department to him or her whenever possible. But be sure you have your manager’s blessing. Otherwise he may resent your initiative.

  • Talk to HR about your desire to know the company better. Ask them for executives who would be good to “information interview.” Look for mentors as you go.

  • Join a professional organization. Large companies often have chapters in-house. If not, you’ll probably find one in your city. Volunteer for a committee. Get to know its leadership and cultivate their respect.

  • Go to conferences, workshops and other external activities hosted by organizations allied with your industry or career where potential mentors will tend to congregate.

  • If you uncover an exciting new area, consider taking a course or two to increase your expertise. Along with valuable information, you’ll also meet people who are currently in that field.

  • Potential mentors are everywhere. Serve on a nonprofit board or committee for your homeowners’ association, church, favorite charity or issue, children’s school, political party, etc.

People who take the initiative to go after what they want usually find a mentor in the process. Yet because they develop exceptional skills in building relationships and networks, they often don’t need one. By expanding your people skills, you help yourself and your colleagues and decrease your dependence on others. Pursuing enlightened self-reliance beats finding a mentor any day, although having both is the ultimate way to go.

 Career Dimensions ● 214-208-1706 ●

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