Would you rely on the advice from a mentor, to help you develop your career?
Career mentoring has become a popular trend amongst individuals who are eager to succeed. A good mentoring relationship allows both the mentor and mentee to develop new talents and build self-awareness.
Your Coffee Break speak to two career mentors on the reality of having a good mentor. Susan Grossman from London mentors people who want to go back to work after having children, to those who want to change direction, focusing on journalism. Gary Bizzo, Vancouver, has mentored over 900 start-up businesses and is the CEO of the Bizzo Management Group. He is a sought after and respected speaker in America.
Mentoring, the basics.
Choosing, changing or developing a new career brings huge decisions. To put it simply, a mentor is a more experienced person who can advise someone less experienced. It isn’t a one way street. The mentee is focused on receiving guidance, but the mentor is able to strengthen their leadership skills and knowledge.
Perhaps a reason that some people don’t use mentors is because they don’t understand what they can gain. There is no narrow specification. Mentors are there to help with very different queries. A lot of people seek them to gain impartial advice, whereas others might need them to rattle thoughts that they dare not say to anyone else.
Gary explains why more people should seek mentors, “It would make life easier for many, they can give you the encouragement to take a leap of faith knowing that the risk is mitigated because the mentor has given you support.”
Some of the reasons you should seek a mentor may include:
– Beginning your career
– Changing career paths
– Developing your career and position
– Helping you find and learn new skills needed
– Alert you of opportunities of interest.
Mentoring, the benefits.
If you seek a mentor, you expect results. Without a mentor, you can get stuck in a rut. Relatives and friends may be sympathetic but they haven’t got the detachment and expertise to help move things forward. “The people I work with generally find themselves more confident,” says Susan, “they have a better insight into themselves and the route they need to take.”
Gary experienced being alone in a search to change careers, “I never considered that a mentor in the field could save me endless pain in searching, making the wrong turns and starting a career at the wrong junction.”
The more experience mentors have in the industry, the more contacts they know and the likelihood of fast tracking a client is higher. We ask the mentors to give us a snippet of their re-occurring pieces of advice.
“Most people want to be told what to do to get from point A to point B,” says Gary. “I often point this out to them and ask them if they want me just to agree with them or do they want valuable advice.
“People don’t really know what they need, they know what they want. I will not tell people what they want to hear. I have a client who wanted to buy three radio stations and kept on me for an hour about the value of the opportunity. Even with me telling him it was a ludicrous idea he continued until I suddenly realized he wanted me to agree with him. I confronted him and he said, yes, he wanted my approval. I asked him if he could afford to lose the millions and he said he could so I said go ahead. He did and lost all his money within months. He sheepishly apologized for doubting my ‘wisdom’ next time we met. I raised my hourly fee after that.”
Sue explains a direct approach at tackling dream jobs, “I always say make a list of who you know, and get back in touch. It’s all about networking. If you really want something, the chances of getting it are pretty low if you keep your desires and wishes to yourself, or just tell someone who
can’t do anything about it. That’s where a mentor comes in.”
Mentoring, the skills.
Mentors roles can be broadly broken down into two main responsibilities; to listen and give the chance for a mentee to explain their issues, whilst also on the back of this, trying to resolve their issues through guidance and advice.
“Listen, watch and hear. Tune in to recognize skills, achievements and potential,” says Susan, who coaches as well as mentors, “Most people don’t believe in themselves but when they start talking, they are clearly capable.”
Gary agrees that good listening skills, expertise and maturity are needed when mentoring someone in their career. He uses a hybrid technique of coaching, mentoring, counselling and consulting, “Some clients want advice (mentoring) some want immediate results so I tell them what to do (Consulting), some want to be guided to their end decision (Coaching) and some want to be guided but in the end decide themselves (Counsellor).”
In most professions, there are people willing to help. It doesn’t always have to be local. With our modern reliance on technology, mentoring can now be online or by Skype – although Susan feels that face to face works the best. The best way to find mentors, aside from searching on the internet, is through word of mouth. Networking is an increasingly important aspect in people’s careers and getting out of the house and meeting up with other people can sometimes be the best way.
Luke Shepherd, 22, a drama student In London decided to seek a career mentor in the field of acting. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about the sector you are about to go into,” he said, “Success Breeds success and I wanted to learn from their experiences as it could give you a real advantage if you cultivate an open communicative relationship with your mentor.”
Luke explains how important contacts are in nearly every industry and that who you know has a big impact on your position, “having a mentor has provided me with excelling networking opportunities, however I still need to put the hard work in to forge those opportunities myself.”
With his experience as a mentee, he sees patience, organisation, passion and an approachable demeanour as the key qualities of a career mentor.
Mentees want it planned out for them. Mentors give that direction. People want someone to see the greatness in them, and the wisdom of someone who has been there. Simple.