All of us, regardless of our line of work or our level of experience, face challenges that inhibit our ability to get business done. In such instances, it’s easy to feel like “the lone soldier on the hill” and attempt to tackle such issues on our own. Too often, we forget that we’re not the only one who has ever experienced the issue at hand and therefore miss an opportunity to engage a mentor who can help us through that situation.
It is easy to feel alone. However, there is no business problem in existence that hasn’t already been experienced by someone else.
1. Identify and Secure a Mentor…or Three
Take a moment to think about two or three of the most successful people you know. And then ask them if they have a mentor. It’s a certainty that they will say they had someone who impacted their career, and most of them will tell you they have more than one.
No matter where you are in your career, it’s not too late to start if you don’t already have a mentor. And you should NEVER, EVER feel uncomfortable asking someone to be a mentor to you. Trust me, they’ll be flattered you asked!
The key to it is to find a mentor who has the experience or is at the level to which you want to achieve. That’s why we say “executive” mentor. No matter where you are in your career, there is always someone with more experience than you or has delved a little more deeply into the subject matter than you have. If you want to be an executive, emulate someone (or multiple people) at the executive level.
2. Think Outside the Box
It’s good to have an executive mentor within your industry, and we certainly recommend doing so. But it’s also beneficial to find someone outside of you career field, because they’ll have the ability to see and guide you through a very different prism that is free of more typical assumptions surrounding your particular industry. A mentor who is in a different field of work is free to see you more for “who you are,” versus “what you do.”
For instance, let’s say your are in local politics. Many politicians look to business executives and nonprofit professionals for guidance and wisdom on topics they just may have not had experience with yet. We can’t possibly know everything, so it’s helpful to have executive mentors who can point us down the the best path.
3. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Too often, people think of their executive mentor only when they’re experiencing a business challenge. While it’s certainly a good idea to seek counsel when experiencing a challenge, the strongest mentoring relationships are those that are regularly nurtured even during the good times. So, set yourself a schedule that works for you and your mentors that allows you to meet regularly – either in a social, or more formal setting – so that you’re not just calling upon their guidance during moments of crisis. It will make them feel more valued as well.