Chapter 22. The Role of Mentoring
The idea of the self-made man is a myth. Although notable figures in history and in business seem to have made something out of nothing, the fact is, we all fall back on influential people throughout our lives. These people might be direct acquaintances or those who have influenced through writing or other less direct sources.
From a career perspective, mentoring is a critical adjunct to your professional network. However, it takes the professional network model a step further. More than a peer or acquaintance in the industry with whom you share information and opportunity, a mentor serves in a more vital and encompassing capacity.
The word "mentor" is notably present in Greek mythology. In particular, when King Ulysses begins his protracted quest, he leaves his son in the care of a friend named Mentor.
The word has expanded to mean one who is a trusted advisor on life and careers.
We all learn, use, and need advice and assistance from others. This need takes on varying degrees during different points in our lives.
In the area of career development, the need for a mentor cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, we often view the need to go to a more experienced peer or to acknowledge that we are stuck on some problem as a weakness. We errantly believe this can potentially damage or slow our career prospects.
I want to dispel this myth and give you some input on the art and science of finding mentors to help you advance your career. In addition, I'll explain why you should become a mentor to others.
The idea of mentoring is not new, but in the past few years, personal coaching has become a multimillion dollar industry. Celebrities have taken to hiring personal coaches for all facets of their life. You only need to look as far as Oprah to see the rise of Dr. Phil, Oprah's popular life-coach.
A mentor is one who provides advice and serves as a sounding board for ideas. Hopefully, the mentor is able to provide some value to situations, either because of his own personal experience or through his education and insight on the topic in question.
Mentors are often older, although this need not be the case. Having years of experience is not necessarily the criterion for a good mentor, either.