You should have a mentor. Lands, if there’s one thing you learn from job search blogs, career blogs, marketing blogs, recruiting blogs, HR Blogs or even Mom Blogs, it’s this. GET A MENTOR.
Mentors are great, they help you up when you’re down, give great advice and generally are a treasure trove but here are some reasons why mentors can totally suck.
1) A good one will tell you the truth. Even when it sucks, even when it’s not what you want to hear. If you don’t want to hear the truth, find yourself a sycophant. Workaround: Learn to discern the truth about yourself and your professional path and make changes if/when necessary. You’ll thank them later.
2) A good mentor knows about failure and eventually (in a long-term relationship) you’ll see that they too, have failed, and it might scare the crap out of you. Workaround: Instead of freaking out that your mentor is human, learn from their mistakes or at least don’t make them.
3) Mentors (good ones) are subject to the same pressures and fears you are (the ones that aren’t are robots). There are LOADS of things they are still trying to figure out. Usually, they have learned to listen more than they talk, to address their fears and put them aside, and to march their issues right out of the workplace. Workaround: Emulate where needed, but know your own convictions and goals. It’s okay to take their advice sometimes and simply appreciate their input at other times.
4) Good mentors are BUSY. Most of them are in demand and have lots of other folks asking for their time. Workaround: Be memorable but more importantly, be polite. The world doesn’t stop when you have a work issue, a career crisis or hit a professional crossroads. Know this and be able to move forward cautiously when you need to, incorporating your mentor’s when and if they have time to give it.
5) Many mentors (even good ones) may have business ethics you love while making personal decisions you abhor or at the least, make you uncomfortable. Workaround: Suck it up. You are a grown-up and should at least have the wherewithal to realize your own moral guidelines. If the other stuff bugs you, keep the relationship on a professional level. If you find yourself becoming too influenced (in the wrong direction) get yourself a new mentor.
6) Longer isn’t better. I don’t know quite how to elaborate on this one so I will use a quote from my husband.
“It’s like saying that trains are better than airplanes because they’ve been around longer.”
There will be times when your mentor will say something you KNOW is not right in today’s market. It might be based on a lifetime of experience that is being impacted by a rapidly changing business model. It might be advice that works great for a savvy entrepreneur but is bollocks in the corporate world. It could be that they simply have a different idea of your goals than you do (this might be because of YOUR lack of clear communication) but it WILL happen. Workaround: Just one mentor is a recipe for disaster. I have several, some in Marketing, some in PR, some in HR, some in Travel, some in writing, some in community building, some as a Mom/wife/sister….you get the picture. Throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. If two or more folks are saying the same thing, then maybe take it under consideration. If not, carefully file it away for later.