Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mentoring is key to professional success

It’s a fact: people who have mentors are more likely to achieve significant success than those without. The same goes for people who mentor other people.

So how do you find one, or add another to your existing ones?

It’s different for everyone because it depends on what you want to get out of the relationship – and what you can put into it. I personally have three and they have all helped me in very different ways.

At the beginning of my career, I realized that a solid understanding of finance was sorely lacking in my educational curriculum – who knew that this management psychology major was going to head into a solid business and marketing career path? So my first choice of mentor was the company president, who had an extensive finance background, and he taught me how finance is, indeed, the language of business. His return on investment? Personal satisfaction that one of his staff was able to achieve significant success at his company… and beyond.

I found my second mentor while doing due diligence with a buyer of one of my publications. I was so impressed with her ability to cut through the stacks and stacks of data and get to the nuggets of what was really important I asked if I could work with her on a few acquisitions. Yes, I had a full time job so I had to work with her on weekends, but what I learned from the experience – how to take data and turn it into management information – has benefited me enormously. What my mentor got out of the process was a deeper understanding of the publishing business, an area she was planning on growing her business around.

My third mentor was someone I admired enormously. A business leader, a philanthropist, a visionary. I ran into him at a reception at an industry conference and pulled together the courage to go up to him and tell him how much I respected him and his company. He graciously started inviting me to his monthly “expert” dinners where there was always a controversial topic at the table being discussed by experts from a diverse range of industries. He helped me learn perspective, how to listen, and to appreciate multiple view points. What did he get out of the relationship? He is passionate about seeing the world through others’ eyes and I believe he enjoyed the “lens” I provided at the dinners.

Your next mentor could be anywhere: in your company; in your professional network; at your church; in your family; sitting across from you at your next business function or….