Often in my work I am asked about the role of mentors. Mentorship holds a lot of value and I would never call out a well-thought out mentoring program when the time, effort and resources have been put into place to make that happen. However, what many tend to forget is that sourcing what we need for our own development is always in our hands, whether your organization provides a formal mentoring/development program or not. The ideals of mentorship make it popular; it offers the possibility of receiving guidance beyond the “business”, providing support in the relational field; navigating office politics, internal networking and (when it is coupled with sponsorship), helps to increase an individual’s visibility within an organization. That is a tall order for one relationship to deliver on, and before entering into it you should check your expectations at the door.
Development with the assistance of others happens organically every day, not just through mentorship. Seek a mentor, by why stop at building only one relationship? Find people to connect with who hold experiences beyond your own, who have navigated problems and paths you have yet to cross. Meet with them once or often, it doesn’t matter as long as you are open-minded. These individuals will look different than you do, have experienced life in a different way than you, they may even be younger than you are. They will express themselves in ways that may make you laugh, shudder, or make you feel like a slacker. Don’t be complacent choosing to learn from only those who offer comfort and familiarity to you – that is not development - that is confirmation (there is no development in confirmation, although it may seem like it because you feel better when it is present). Mentorship with one individual has a continuity attached to it that allows for a deeper and more intimate professional relationship to take place, but it is not the only professional relationship you need to invest in. Challenge yourself, be more visible, offer up your gifts, your insights and your experiences. They are valuable, especially when they differ from another person’s and you are willing to share them without prejudice, with heart-felt compassion…and from a place where you build shared understanding.
Development is working with someone who will challenge your thinking. If you are lucky you may receive mentorship from someone who can do that, but one person alone cannot be solely responsible for your development (beyond accepting responsibility for this yourself). Nurturing your high potential requires you to put yourself out into the world, being prepared to hear things you’d rather not, receive opinions as well as facts. With development you source your own gurus and teachers, build your own network to call on when you need a different perspective. Through all of these conversations you will need to figure out what is important to action, and what is not. This is development of your high potential.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.