Do You Have a Career Champion?
As you move throughout your career, it’s important you have a mentor to not only help you celebrate your successes but also push you forward. Here’s a look at how and where to find the right person for you.
I recently attended a micro-networking dinner event hosted by an accomplished association executive. I’d been to dinners like these before, and having recently transitioned into a new job and earned my CAE, I expected to sit back and enjoy the Irish pub fare while catching up with friends. If that was what had happened, then this story would be over, but what the host said next was something that caught me off guard.
She said that, in her opinion, there are four sets of 15-year spans in a lifetime: ages 5 to 20, 20 to 35, 35 to 50, and 50 to 65. And each—learning and developing, career exploration and establishment, career maximization, and leveraging and giving back—is representative of growth in our life. What struck me the most? I was almost halfway through the career exploration and establishment phase and on the cusp of maximization. Just when I thought I could take a step back and breathe a little, I realized this was when the work would really begin.
And part of that work would involve a mentor, whose insights would help me develop my own perspectives on my career. After all, who better to provide a viewpoint to where you want to go than someone who’s already been through it? Above all, a great mentor should be an ally—someone on your team who wants to see you excel, a personal champion cheering on your successes and pushing for more. A mentor can introduce you to a future employer, member of the selection committee, or an industry thought leader. Quality relations are important, and who you know may matter more than we want to admit.
Per the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Preparation comes from your hard work and accomplishment of great things. Perhaps the next opportunity is one presented by your career champion.
Mentors come in all forms, serving for different reasons. Ever hear the saying, “We have three types of friends: friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime?” I think the same can be said about mentors.
Mentors for a reason. This is someone you connect with once, who helps you address a specific, tactical area of your work. This person may be someone you already know or a new connection.
Mentors for a season. Think back to the four sets of 15-year spans. Which of the four seasons are you in now? Who can be your cheerleader and champion during this phase?
Mentors for a lifetime. These are your lateral mentors, peers who you consider close friends and confidants through life. They are “your tribe” and they “get it.” They are sincerely honest with you, because together you will share both your challenges as well as successes. This is the truest form of professional comradery.
In my experience, mentors do not come to you, presenting themselves like a magic genie when you need them most. Rather, you have to seek them out. Start with who you know: ask a friend or your boss if they know someone who can help you out. Or, as I have said, “Literally say it out loud to give notice to the universe that you’re asking for help.”
Articulating these scenarios reminds me that you need to continually put yourself out there. Attend new programs and be in unique situations. Say hello to strangers, and let the conversation naturally progress from there. Take advantage of situations that present themselves. And remember, mentorship is a two-way street, a partnership. Both individuals benefit from the relationship.
But, above all, be authentic in your character and intentional in how you spend your time. Because, as you now know, we only have four sets of 15.
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