How often have you asked your dance teacher about the mechanics of astrophysics? Have you ever gone to a basketball coach to ask them about tennis? My guess? Rarely, if ever.
Then, when it comes to your career, the one thing you’ll be doing for over 40 years of your life, why do you go to the most convenient sample?
Often, especially when you are starting out, you go to your parents and teachers. While that’s an excellent support system, they are not always the apt system that you’re looking for professionally. Mentors play a massive role in shaping your future. They don’t control it. But they can make your career path easier, better, and sometimes, faster.
There is a notion that a mentor chooses you. Sometimes. Maybe. But for the most part, you choose your mentor. You make yourself available and active in circles where you’ll find your mentors. If you sit at home all day, your parents automatically become your mentors. If you go to networking nights designed for tech startups, that’s where you’ll find mentors for the Tech fields. If you go to networking nights for artists and singers, that’s where you’ll find mentors in those fields. So, finding mentors is a two-way street where you actively seek them out and they reciprocate your initiative by mentoring you.
While finding mentors is an essential aspect of any field, looking at the current trends in bias against women in workplaces, the right mentors become even more important for women. Vittoria Adhami, a Professional Life Coach, also corroborates that these biases against women are ingrained in society and can hurt women’s chances of success.
All this discussion points to a very important statement- we need to choose our mentors wisely. We need to choose people who believe in our capability, have been in our field long enough to guide us and have the ability to adapt.
People who believe in your capability
While it’s all good to surround yourself with ambitious go-getters, not everyone is a type A personality. People learn and act on their own pace. Finding people who are ambitious but differently ambitious from you may actually hurt you more than help you. They won’t be able to see your work the way you do and so they can’t guide you as well as someone who knows how you work. Your mentor must see your capability and your potential. Choose a mentor who sees the future you as opposed to the present you. Don’t find someone who flatters you. Definitely not, but find someone who gets you and is willing to guide you.
Have been in your field long enough
20-year-old CEO’s sound like a great idea. They are inspiring and envy-inducing. But do they make good mentors? Let’s see. To become a CEO today, in the start-up culture specifically, is honestly, quite easy. Anyone can become the CEO. It’s not surprising then, that 90% of all start-ups fail. Experience counts for a whole lot in life. Mentors who’ve ‘been there, done that and survived it’ are the ones who will help you tide through the tough times. From bad business deals to a shifting topography to hostile company take overs, an experienced mentor can help you through it all.
Ability to Adapt
While society’s attitudes take a while to change, their behavior can easily change. The market works on behavior. The global market is a dynamic caricature of society. It shifts and molds itself according to the way the world is changing. The Internet changed everything. Tomorrow, something else might. Find a mentor who is changing with the times. A mentor who has continued to grow in her/his field and personal life. After a certain point in someone’s life, our professional and personal lives tend to mesh. A mentor who has grown personally will take those learning to her/his professional life and will be able to learn some new, some useful and some futile tactics. She/he will be able to guide you through those learning as well.