Do you have a vision for your future? Where do you see your career taking you?
This may sound like the old “Where do you see yourself in five years” interview question, but it’s something everyone should reflect on from time to time. The old adage “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up standing still” is very true.
One of the best and most underutilized methods to work towards your career goals is the Mentor. Finding someone who’s been there, done that, who can and will offer you guidance. I personally never bothered with this for many years; I was convinced that somehow I was different (which maybe I was), and so their experience wasn’t that applicable to me (which is foolish; where they were is where I wanted to be).
The simple truth is that if you want to get somewhere in life, if there’s people you know who you admire or admire their success, the best way to learn how to get where they are is simply to ask and see advice. This may seem awkward, and if you’ve chosen the wrong mentor, then it will be. A good mentor, especially for a leadership role, is the kind of person who nurtures success in others. The right mentor for you will be happy to help you.
The second major hurdle with mentors is this: Great, I have a mentor, what do I do now? What do I ask? How does this work?
Pamela Trunk over at the Brazen Careerist blog has a good article related to this entitled “How I got my current favorite mentor“. All of her points are good ones; my favorite (which I must admit was originally pointed out over at Lifehacker) is to ask “What should I be asking now?” Remember, your mentor has been the road you’re trying to walk. Little in business is truly unique rocketscience. They can assess where you are, what you need to know next, and will lead you the right direction- even when you don’t know where to begin.
While the relationship isn’t formal, I have a mentor now- several, in fact, but a primary one, and it’s extremely valuable to me and where I want to go. There’s certain areas of my career that I need to grow that I can learn about talking to my mentor in a simple conversation; the same learning would take me ages on my own to stumble in to. The value is tremendous. If you don’t have a mentor, seek one out.