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Have Your Eye On A C-Suite Office? Turn Your Eyes Toward A Mentor First

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by Paul MacCartney

October 30, 2018

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The career path to a C-Suite position is never straight. It is full of twists and turns, speed bumps and detours. So, it will take more than a few attempts to get there. Ask anyone who has done so.

In the past, ambitious professionals have had to rely on strength, fortitude, and independence to make career headway, often feeling they are on their own when it comes to achieving success. Moreover, many needlessly forged their climb up the corporate ladder alone, making that upward climb all the more challenging.

Fortunately, all this is changing with a new focus on mentorship programs in the workplace. By teaming experienced executives with promising emerging talent, businesses are ensuring a steady supply of trained personnel – ready to take the reins when the appropriate time for succession comes. It’s also saving companies both time and money. Mentoring is a cost effective practice that counters employee turnover and disengagement.

If you have your eye on a C-Suite office, don’t blaze the trail alone. Seek out the guidance and counsel that will make your journey smarter and faster, by seeking out an influential mentor.

How Does Having A Mentor Help My Career?

Seeking counsel, guidance, and advice from an experienced professional in your industry will save you innumerable hours of thrashing out solutions on your own. A strong mentor/mentee relationship will bolster not only your professional development but also your personal growth. Aside from ongoing career advice, mentors provide a useful sounding board. They create a safe place to air new ideas or flesh-out potential big decisions that could define you as a leader in your company. The mentor is on hand to guide you along a your path, based on the broader knowledge they have of your business culture and your industry sector as a whole.

Where Can I Find a Mentor?

Finding a mentor used to be straight forward. In many crafts, you began your career serving as an intern or apprentice under a talent who had mastered the profession. As the work landscape became more dynamic, finding and maintaining a relationship with a mentor became more difficult, often occurring through happenstance rather than strategically. Fortunately, this is changing, as more companies are introducing formal mentoring programs into their business plans. If your current employer doesn’t have such a program, consider asking them to initiate one. Company mentor programs can help you find promising mentors who you might not know existed within your company. Otherwise, look to outside professional trade groups to find like-minded, engaged leaders who might take you on as a protege.

What’s the Mentor / Mentee Relationship Like?

This is probably the trickiest part to define. Ultimately, the relationship must be a two-way street, with each party benefiting from the interaction. The mentor improves coaching skills and the new perspectives of the mentee, The mentee gains insight into the mentor’s institutional knowledge and years of experience. None of this will work for long if the chemistry between the two parties is off, or one side is benefiting more than the other.

Should My Mentor Be The Same Gender?

Your mentor’s gender may not be an important factor unless you feel it would be for personal reasons. What matters is that the relationship is productive and you’re growing. Approach the relationship as a tremendous opportunity to learn more than the nuts and bolts of your business; study how your mentor interacts with colleagues, bosses, vendors, and competitors. Study their presentation, negotiating, email, and phone skills. Watch how they conduct themselves in different business situations and decide how you might employ similar strategies in your role.

The road to a senior position doesn’t have to be a journey undertaken alone. Take advantage of mentor opportunities, whether they come to you organically or as part of a more formal company-sponsored mentoring program. Don’t be afraid to form a network of mentors. Leverage all of those relationships as your skills grow. And last but not least, once you gain that senior position, consider becoming a mentor yourself. Lend a helping hand to the next generation of business leaders coming up the path.

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