How a great men­tor can trans­form your ca­reer

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Kath­leen Win­sor-games — Kath­leen Win­sor-games is the prin­ci­pal of The Win­sor Group, a Den­ver-based firm of­fer­ing lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, team build­ing and ca­reer coach­ing. See her blog at Thewin­sor­group.com.

Ev­ery ca­reer has turn­ing points. Ev­ery ca­reer has set­backs. Have you thought about the pos­i­tive im­pact a great men­tor could have on your ca­reer progress and life­long suc­cess?

The Mer­ri­amweb­ster dic­tio­nary de­fines a men­tor as “a trusted coun­selor or guide.” The mentee, or pro­tégé, gains wis­dom, in­sight and ac­cel­er­ated growth in a suc­cess­ful men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship.

If you haven’t yet ex­pe­ri­enced this ca­reer-chang­ing re­la­tion­ship, don’t wait for it to hap­pen. You can proac­tively seek a men­tor and es­tab­lish a pro­duc­tive re­la­tion­ship by fol­low­ing a few guide­lines. I am grate­ful to have ex­pe­ri­enced a series of trans­for­ma­tive men­tor re­la­tion­ships and can at­test to their last­ing value. Here are a few of the lessons I can share to help you along.

Be­gin with the end in mind. Start by de­ter­min­ing what you want from a men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship. A few ideas for you:

• Ad­vanced tech knowl­edge

• In­sight into the pol­i­tics of your com­pany or de­part­ment

• Ad­vo­cacy in an ag­gres­sive or fast-paced work en­vi­ron­ment

• Guid­ance on build­ing strate­gic al­liances

• In­creased vis­i­bil­ity in your com­pany or in­dus­try

• Ex­po­sure to op­por­tu­ni­ties that chal­lenge your skills

What should you look for in a men­tor? I think it is im­por­tant to have a suc­cess cri­te­ria de­vel­oped be­fore you take the cru­cial step of speak­ing to a po­ten­tial men­tor. I have ad­vised my coach­ing clients to in­clude these traits:

• In­tegrity, hon­esty and mu­tual re­spect

• Wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence

• Con­nec­tions and cred­i­bil­ity

• High emo­tional in­tel­li­gence

• Dis­cre­tion and tact

• Abil­ity to chal­lenge your think­ing and skills

• In­sight into the strengths and po­ten­tial of oth­ers

Where will you find a men­tor? Start by look­ing in­side your com­pany. Does your com­pany have a for­mal men­tor­ing pro­gram? If so, find out what it takes to be­come in­volved. If not, an in­for­mal men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship can still be formed, ei­ther in­ter­nally or ex­ter­nally.

Be­fore you ap­proach a po­ten­tial men­tor, de­fine the goals of the re­la­tion­ship. For in­stance, is your po­ten­tial men­tor a gifted fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst who may be able to help you pass the CFA (Cer­ti­fied Fi­nan­cial An­a­lyst) exam? Do you ad­mire the lead­er­ship skills of the COO in your com­pany, and hope to em­u­late his or her in­flu­enc­ing skills?

What­ever your goals, make sure you can ar­tic­u­late them clearly. Think care­fully about the com­mit­ment re­quired. You will be more likely to get a fa­vor­able re­sponse if you ask for an hour or two each month than if you ex­pect your men­tor to de­vote hours ev­ery week.

Once a com­mit­ment is made, stick with it. Honor the time of your men­tor. If she or he asks you to do home­work, such as read­ing a lead­er­ship book, or tak­ing on ex­tra stud­ies to­ward a des­ig­na­tion, make sure to com­plete the work.

I be­lieve ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from a great men­tor. Re­mem­ber, men­tors come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

And, once you have ex­pe­ri­enced the benefits of a men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship, be sure you pay it for­ward.

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