Mentors are great, so why stop at one?
Rowan Haylett is a market research agent at specialist recruitment
firm, Aquent. Relatively new to Australia’s shores, Rowan decided to
swap the hustle and bustle of the London underground for the relative
calm of Sydney ferries in 2007, when she decided to take up the
challenge of setting up Aquent’s specialist market research division.
An ex researcher herself, Rowan was previously a lead consultant on the
market research team at Pricejamieson, an Aquent company in London.
Much has been made in recent times of the benefits of having a mentor, especially in relation to how it can enhance your career development. A mentor can provide a different perspective on your skills and competencies and can help increase your confidence. He or she can provide important career guidance through coaching and feedback.
I’ve recently been asked to act as an internal mentor to a consultant based in a Melbourne office, as part of Aquent’s formal coaching and mentoring programme, so I attended an excellent seminar on mentoring jointly organised by the AMSRS and NSW Young Researchers Group.
One of the underlying themes of the seminar was how selecting a mentor centred on what you wanted to achieve from the mentor relationship, rather than having one mentor who is the sage of all things. Different people can help you with different things, and that there are benefits to having more than one mentor.
I was saved! In my situation, if I didn’t know the answer I could simply send my mentee off to find a mentor that did!
Of course I haven’t done that at every turn, but I have actively encouraged my mentee to look for role models and mentors within her direct environment and existing network of contacts as well. I’ve worked with her to help her understand that a mentor doesn’t have to be like Yoda. I think all too often people, especially those at more junior levels, have unrealistic expectations of what a mentor can do for them. The chances of Richard Branson being free on a Tuesday afternoon to catch up for a skinny latte to help you plan your next career move are pretty slim!
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said, Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. So why stop at one person when you can learn from the mistakes of many. Get yourself a pocket full of mini mentors.
If you think about it, you are likely to need different sorts of advice at different stages in your career and different people can be there to help. Some people may be particularly accomplished in a certain area and therefore the ideal person to learn from. This could be someone who is exceptional when it comes to time and activity management. Or it could be someone with an advanced technical competency – the PowerPoint wizard or the database guru. These people may not be particularly senior to you, in fact who’s to say they are senior at all. Other people may be better suited to helping you develop a certain competence or behaviour within a social pretext, or they might be able to expand your network of contacts ensuring that you really are talking to the movers and shakers.
Mentoring can also be a great tool when change happens, when you have to learn new strategies to achieve goals. Examples of this could be the step up to management – how do you go from one of the gang to the leader of the pack? Or how do you cope with the competing pressures of motherhood and employment? And what about home working or adjusting to a 4-day working week? Often the best people to help here are those who have been though a similar experience.
Potential mentors are everywhere, different strokes for different folks, all with their own knowledge to share or guidance to give. At the end of the day we all like to be recognised for doing something well or for having achieved a certain status. If you ask someone to mentor you through a particular situation or period of your life, the chances are they’ll be flattered.
So have you got any mentoring stories to tell? Or do you have a link to more online information on mentoring? Share the wealth in the comments section below.