I am a strong believer in finding mentors to help you further your career. I have had two very influential mentors in my career that have not only given me great career advice, but have also involved me in consulting projects that they were working on where I gained valuable experiences. In both incidents, I approached them and asked if I could learn from them. I know it can be awkward asking someone to be a mentor to you, but it may not be as hard as you first think. The worst thing someone could say to you is that they do not have time to mentor you. Many other individuals are more than willing to help out when you come prepared to them with specific questions.
The first question you need to ask yourself is why do I need a mentor. What skills or skill set am I trying to develop in myself that a mentor can help me with?This is very important to define exactly what you are trying to gain knowledge in so that you do not waste your time or a potential mentor's time. May I also add here, that you might not know what you are missing in your skill set until you talk to a lot of different people asking them how they gained the knowledge you are seeking after. This might lead to different mentors at different stages in your life.
Personally, I wanted to be an Enterprise Risk Management consultant in 2009 and I knew that even though I graduated from the University of Utah in Environmental Risk Management, a somewhat related field, that I needed further knowledge in the evolving field of Enterprise Risk Management. So my solution was to seek after those individuals that had established themselves as experts in this field by either offering training to others or by the articles and books that they wrote on the subject.
When we turn to the scriptures, there are many examples of good mentoring. Jesus Christ was a mentor to us all. His mortal ministry is filled of examples on how we should keep the commandments as well as serve our fellow man. Proverbs 1:5 states, "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance." This is a very insightful passage of scripture because it clearly states that when receiving words of wisdom from a mentor, we need to be humble to accept the advice given even if we ,at first, do not understand the advice.
Following the advice given to us by our mentor is equally important. Many times we do not fully comprehend what it will take to gain new knowledge. For years, one of my mentors emphasized with me the importance of observing those organizations that were successful at implementing an Enterprise Risk Management program. At first, I thought my mentor was repeating himself over and over again and where was the additional advice I so desperately needed to advance in my career. It is not until now, some eight years later, that I have realized the wisdom in his words. By observing many different organization's Enterprise Risk Management programs, I was able to understand what worked and what didn't in their Enterprise Risk Management programs. Only looking at one example was simply not enough for me to understand the process.
Currently, I am mentoring an MBA student at Westminster College. I also appreciate my MBA student being prepared for our meetings and giving me enough details on her project management assignment that she is working on this semester. I think it is very important to be appreciative of the time that a mentor is spending with you, so always be thankful for their time and work around their schedule. Also offer to help them out with a project they are working on. Any little bit of experience you can gain in a collaborative effort will pay big dividends in the future.
Have any of you had a positive experience with a mentor that you would like to share on the blog?