I’m sure that you’ve heard from many other places that you need a mentor. Mentoring is sorta like that networking thing. You know that it’s probably a good thing to be doing. However, you’re not quite sure how to get started with it and so it seems to always end up on your “should do” list where, of course, it never gets done. The world has become a complicated place and no matter how much you learned in school or on the job, there is no way that you could possibly know it all. CIOs and anyone who works in IT these days really needs a mentor – do you have one?
A traditional mentoring relationship was when an older colleague would talk a younger colleague under their wing and they would show you the ropes and maybe even open some doors for you along the way. Bad news: those days are pretty much over at this point in time. Today mentors need their own mentors in order to keep up with all the changes that are occurring in technology, globalization, workplace diversity, etc. Since the old way of mentoring is now officially broken, you are going to need a new way of getting the guidance that mentoring used to provide.
A clever solution to this problem is instead of limiting yourself to one mentor, instead develop a small network of mentors – each having a particular area of specialty. Keep in mind that mentors for this “personal board of directors” do not need to come from where you work: professional societies, university, friends, all are potential candidates. Here are 5 steps that will help you build your mentor network:
- First Look In The Mirror: How can you ask others to help you unless you know what kind of career help you need? Spending time listing out your strengths and weaknesses is the best way to decide what kind of mentors you need.
- Determine What Your Needs Are: Once you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, then you are ready to decide what steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal. If you are a CIO already, then you may want to become CEO as a next step. If you want to be CIO, then you probably need to first be a Director, next an Executive Director, and so on. Knowing this type of information will help you to understand what types of mentors can give you the coaching that you’ll need in order to get promoted.
- Pick Your Mentors: Instead of waiting around for a kindly Sr. Executive (at your company or perhaps at another company) to reach out and offer to coach you (just like in the movies), you need to select those whom you will invite to be your mentors. Remember that mentoring has to be a two way street so make sure that you have something to give back to the people that you ask to mentor you.
- Weed & Sow Constantly: As time goes by, your mentoring needs will change. This means that you need to be constantly re-evaluating who is currently in your mentoring network. Over time your needs will change and you will need to gracefully swap out board members.
- Give More Than You Receive: Keep in mind that mentoring is a two-way street. Ultimately you will want to be sought out by others to be their mentor so that you can learn from the best and the brightest. The only way to make sure that this happens is to develop a reputation for being a great mentor yourself.
Do you currently have a mentor? How did you get your mentor – did you select them or were they assigned to you? If you developed a mentor network, how many people would you need to have on it? Where would you find people to be part of your mentor network? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.