To Find a Mentor – Be a Student

I was lucky. In my first job after college, I had a great mentor (Skip) who took an active role in my career development.

He pushed. I listened.

Actually, make that hung on every word. Because the fact that anyone would take time out of their schedule to coach a newbie like me was a gift…and I knew it.

Example: When I asked for a raise, Skip made me “demonstrate I was worth it” by….

….Reading a series of books (How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc.)

…..Writing a paper about what I learned from each one and

…..Finding an operational problem in the office and solving it using TQM processes. (The result was a binder of information and charts.)

Along the way, there were a lot of naysayers who thought he was just stalling because he didn’t want to pay me more, give me a promotion, etc. In fact, many people I spoke to were borderline appalled that someone would have to jump through so many hoops to earn a raise that they were probably entitled to anyway.

But I knew better.

Skip has had many new professionals work under him and yet he’s had no official “mentee” since me. When I asked him why, he said “No students.”

The point is that finding a mentor is only half the battle. After that, you must be a good student. Listen gratefully. Apply what you’ve learned to your work. Demonstrate enthusiasm so he/she feels their investment in you is meaningful.

It’s not the quickest route to success by any stretch, but I promise you the journey is its own reward.