by Karen Adamedes
You probably want your career to keep developing even though you are working from home? There is no reason why it should stagnate and that you can’t be working towards your goals, just because you are not working out of someone else’s office. And certainly no reason why you can’t be working with a mentor.
Ongoing career development is important so that you have choices for your future. Choices about where you work, who you work for, and the kind of work you do. There are a number of things you can do to be working on your career – even if you are in lockdown. Working with a mentor is one of the easiest. And most helpful.
Developing you career
Obviously you need to be good at your job to advance your career. In fact, you need to be the very best at your job that you can. But that is unlikely to be enough in the madcap world of business targets, customer demands, and busy schedules. Nor is being dedicated, working long hours or leaping over small buildings in a single bound!
You need the skills to communicate who you are, what you do, and the contributions that you make.
You need to be able to sell your ideas for others to understand your contributions and appreciate the value that you bring to your role.
And you also need the skills to be effective in your work, to build a professional reputation, and to proactively manage your career so that you are able to make the best choices and negotiate the best outcomes for you.
A mentor can help you develop all of these skills.
What is a mentor?
Originating from Greek mythology you’ll hear the term mentor used today in various situations, including business, sport and education. Whatever the circumstances, a mentor describes someone knowledgeable, skilled or experienced who can provide guidance to someone who wants to develop in the mentor’s field of expertise.
A mentor isn’t necessarily an older or more senior person in an organization’s hierarchy. For instance, when you change company or career it’s very likely that people younger than you will have more expertise. Or if you are looking to master some new piece of technology, your best bet may be a teenage mentor who can quickly figure it out. (I confess I had to defer to my teenage nieces to help me with my Instagram account!)
Why are they essential?
Mentors are a secret weapon in career and personal development. They are absolutely essential to your career when you work from home.
They are important to help you stay in touch with what is happening outside of your own four walls and benchmark your skills and expertise.
A mentor can provide you with a broader perspective on many aspects of your work, career, and options. A mentoring relationship can provide you with feedback, fresh ideas, approaches, knowledge, expertise, and advice.
A mentor can provide you with:
- guidance on your career, an organization’s internal politics, the market and your skills or communication style (to name just a few areas)
- a sounding board – to discuss how you handled a situation or how you should tackle something in the future
- access to networks, and
- honest, valuable feedback.
Where’s the proof?
The benefits are numerous and invaluable to help you reach your potential, whatever your field or current level of achievement.
Oprah mentored ‘Dr. Phil’. Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, and David Beckham have all acknowledged their mentors as being important to their success. Any top achiever you can think of will have had a mentor or coach – someone to guide, counsel and provide advice. Someone who can look at their performance, provide a different perspective, and advise strategies.
It’s the same in business. Leaders from all types of backgrounds credit one or several mentors for their guidance along the way. Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson of Virgin brand fame acknowledges Sir Frederick Laker, a British airline entrepreneur, as his mentor, and the late Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s hamburger chain, was mentored for many years by KFC’s Harland “Colonel” Sanders.
The fact that these famous, talented and successful people made use of the skills and expertise of others illustrates that having a mentor is a legitimate, not to mention successful, strategy to develop your career.
A career asset
Mentors are a key asset in advancing your skills, knowledge, and career development. Unlike other opportunities that are not as readily accessible when you work from home, a mentor is only a phone call away. Get one.
Next blog, we’ll explore some options for identifying and approaching potential mentors. In the meantime have a think about who you admire and would love to work with on your career.
This tip is based on Tip 76 ‘Get a mentor‘ from Professional in Pajamas: 101 Tips for Working from Home.