I recently completed a study in which almost every participant cited the importance of mentors to their personal and professional success. This is certainly true of me. At a pivotal moment in my career, I was fortunate that a mentor took me under his wing. He saw something in me that he felt needed to be nurtured and I have no doubt that my success today is due in no small measure to the advice he shared with me, the time he spent with me, and the support he provided me.
If you are at a crossroads or need advice about your role or career, here are five reasons why you should consider seeking guidance from a mentor:
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
While you may be at the top of your game, there is always more to learn. There is a lot to be said for learning from those who have many more years of hard-earned experience and accumulated wisdom. And, for gaining guidance from those who may be younger than you but have more experience in certain areas.
BE HONEST WITH YOUR BOSS, BUT AVOID T.M.I.
Your supervisor’s role is to provide leadership and direct your work. If you are fortunate, he or she will also invest time developing your skills so you can take on more responsibility and grow in the company. But remember, bosses are human. Even the best manager may not be ready to help you sort out a competing job opportunity or help you juggle work and life responsibilities. There is no need to overshare.
SOMETIMES YOU NEED A SAFE PLACE TO TEST IDEAS
Uncertainty and difficult decisions can be sources of great anxiety. Having someone with a vested interest in guiding your career can be crucial when you are deciding on your next move or on exploring a new concept or project.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS MAY BE TOO CLOSE
When it comes to career or job challenges, sometimes love can get in the way. While your significant other may be thrilled for your promotion, he or she may also fear the potential lost family time. Or, emotion might trump rational analysis. Of course you should consult family and friends, but just do so fully aware of these potential pitfalls.
STUCK ON YOUR PLAN? MAYBE YOU NEED HELP WITH A PATH.
I used to think that I had to plan my career every step of the way. Fortunately, fairly early on, someone wisely told me to keep my mind open to all possibilities. Yes, have goals and ambition and direction. But recognize that life has its own plans for you — that changes will happen and opportunities will arise that you cannot possibly predict or even imagine right now. A mentor can assist as you follow your inner compass down the path that feels right to you, and he or she can offer ideas to help you avoid missing wonderful opportunities by adopting an inflexible, solely-focused predetermined destination.
Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a multigenerational workplace scholar, author and public affairs expert.