Career Mentorship: Give It AND Receive It

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I firmly believe that using our skills, experiences and knowledge to provide career mentorship is a privilege. So it might not surprise you that mentoring has always been one of my passions.

I am excited that I get to play out my passion in several ways – in my role as an executive coach, in how I use career mentorship to help others grow and develop, and through my decisions which range from how I focus my volunteer work, choose interns for my team, and the tools and resources I create for others.

In the spirit of helping others grow, I also serve as faculty and a mentor for the Women’s Initiative Fellows Program of the George W. Bush Institute. Though this pro bono work, I get to play a role in the program’s primary focus: empowering women to catalyze change around the world. Talk about exciting! I have to admit that this experience is just as rewarding for me as it is for the Fellows from Tunisia.

I just returned from a trip to Rome where the mentors met with the Fellows to reinforce what they have learned in the past 9 months, and to prepare them to teach and mentor others as they wrap up their program. I’m honored to be part of this group of mentors who are serious movers and shakers, like Diane Paddison (a former global executive of two Fortune 500 companies), Judy Verses (President, Global Enterprise & Education at Rosetta Stone), Jan Langbein (CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter) and former ambassador Kristen Silverberg.

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The Other Side of Career Mentorship

As I continue my journey, I recognize that I still need career mentorship myself because I’m at a different professional stage than when I started my business almost seven years ago. To think and play bigger, I need to keep inviting people with fresh ideas, experiences, and perspectives to help me have the kind of impact I want to have.

If finding mentors seems to be harder for you now than it was when you started out in the corporate world, here are a few tips on finding career mentorship. They’re useful no matter your situation, but they’re especially helpful for people who are midcareer and/or working outside of a corporate structure.

  • Get serious. Maybe you had more structured mentoring relationships earlier in your career but have let those fall away as you advanced. In my situation, I have had mentors on and off, but as I focus on a new stage of my business, I know I need more structured career mentorship again.
  • Be clear about what you need. Think about what you need for your leadership development or business growth at this stage of your career. Then look for mentors who have already have those skills and accomplishments and who can share their know-how with you.
  • Take a team approach. Chances are, one mentor won’t have all the knowledge and insights you’re looking for right now. That’s why it’s helpful to think in terms of having an advisory board rather than a single mentor. Maybe one of your mentors has a long track record of starting businesses, another has relationship skills you want to model and a third has the product expertise to advise you.
  • Tap your network. Now that you know the kind of career mentorship you need, you can look for the right advisers. The best starting point is your own network. Does anyone currently in your network fit the career mentorship roles you need? If not, can they introduce you to people who do? Because you’ve taken the time to get specific about what you need (“I’m looking for mentors who can advise me on repositioning a company for growth and product marketing.”), they’ll have an easier time connecting you with the right people.

This week, take a look at the role mentoring currently plays in your career. How are you giving and receiving career mentorship? And how does that sync up with your career goals and the support you need to meet them? How do you share your most important skills and insights? For more advice on career mentorship and other essential career relationships, check out my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet, “Building a Powerful Network” or the WOW! ProgramSM.

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