Mentors, Networking, and Relationships: Oh, My!
Have you ever been approached to mentor an individual or group of individuals on issues pertaining to your current field of work, professional and personal skills, or just life in general?
Or, have you been seeking a mentor to offer you real world skills, advice, and resources? That mentor could create better structure and understanding in your work life.
Finding the perfect mentor, or becoming the perfect mentor, is a topic that intrigues many of our students and alumni. Whether you’re 20 or 50, all ages aside, everyone is craving for the opportunity to inspire others or to be inspired.
At Walsh, it seems that every other breath we take, we utter the word, Networking. We focus a great deal on the connections we can make through networking, the opportunities that can surface from the one- on- one interaction with other business professionals. Relationships blossom out of some of those connections. They serve as testaments to mentoring and networking that is being done the “right way.”
So what constitutes the “right way?” I read an interesting article from CNN Money, 5 Mentor Mistakes to Avoid, written by Katherine Reynolds Lewis, that offers some common, but practical, advice on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to securing a mentor, and forming a lasting relationship.
Having a mentor just like you: “Seek out a mentor with a different experience and perspective, one who can help you identify blind spots.” Many times we think that people who are just like us can better relate to what we are going through. They can offer advice that hits home; they understand what I am going through, obstacles I am facing, etc. But some of us are aware that no two stories, no two lives, are the same.
Asking for general help: “A classic mistake in seeking a mentor is to ask a senior executive to lunch and spend the time aimlessly talking, without knowing what kind of help you need. The more specific and targeted your goal is the better.” Be concise and direct, confident in your intentions for calling the meeting, what you’re hoping to achieve, and what you take away from your time spent together.
Wasting Time: “When you ask someone to give you advice, you owe them the courtesy of respecting their time and making the most of it.” I couldn't’t agree more. Everyone’s time is valuable; it’s actually precious to some people! With the days and weeks feeling like they are going by faster and faster, let’s come to the realization that life isn’t slowing down for us. So, when we arrange time to mentor others or seek guidance from mentors, realize the value of being as direct and specific as possible. You will, in turn, gain a new perspective.
Thinking it’s a one-way relationship: “One of the most common misconceptions in mentoring is that it’s a transaction or a one-direction relationship. Mentors can learn a lot from the people they advise.” This is crucial, especially in regard to networking! Many of our student organizations work extremely hard to engage and bring speakers to campus to influence and educate our students and, in turn, the possibility that a lasting connection and relationship will form.
I’m asking, what are we really concerned with? Are we playing with the idea of “getting as much as you give?” Realizing that as much as we put into the relationship, whether it’s as the mentor or the person being mentored, we can only expect to receive as much as we give. To a certain extent this could be true, but is it the best way to go about the process? I think we can do better. Our students and alumni have a lot to offer those they are mentoring, and from those they are receiving advice. After all they have been influenced by Walsh College; that itself should speak volumes!
Forcing the relationship: “Get to know someone before you pop the question.” No, I’m not talking marriage proposals. This correlates with the notion of it being a “one-way relationship” and with the possibility that some people are resistant to being a mentor. We need to make sure that the relationship is organic, meaning you possess the ability to ask for what you want, be firm on your priorities, but in a way that works for both parties involved.
“You have to cast a wide net,” says Michael Melcher, an Executive Coach with the firm Next Step Partners. “It may help to take the pressure off to realize that you’ll have multiple mentors at different points in you career, perhaps some of them even simultaneously.” At different points in our lives we’ll need different bits of advice. Our opinions and priorities will change, forcing an “alteration” of mentors.
Maybe I strayed off topic a little? I started with focusing on the value, the importance of finding a great mentor, and becoming a great mentor. Now it seems I am focusing on the value of networking properly. No, I think what I am really trying to focus on is the value of relationships, and the connection with people you make not only here at Walsh, but everywhere.
Every person you meet has the potential or the power to influence your life in ways that might not present themselves until you least expect it. Moral of the blog…know that, whether you are seeking a mentor or acting as a mentor, your actions, your accomplishments, and failures are a reflection of you and the person you are today. Be the best version of yourself every day.