Do I need a mentor?
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
I get along well with team members, have a great relationship with my boss and his boss, and recently received a very nice raise and bonus. Still everyone tells me I need a mentor if I want to be successful. I’m open to the idea, but I’m not the type of person who feels comfortable asking random people to be a mentor, especially when I don’t know what I should be looking for. Ideas?
Articles tout the benefit of finding perfect mentors who will guide you through tough decisions, teach you how avoid the mistakes they made, introduce you to dealmakers, all the while being selfless in their total laser focus on your success. Man, I wish I found someone like that! Sadly people with all those qualities are almost impossible to find.
Still, I think you should be open to getting to know several people who can give you perspectives about your industry or in industries you’re considering exploring. For example, in your case your boss and his boss seem to have a stake in your success. You should talk to them about how you’d be interested in their opinions on how to manage your career, and ask them if they could recommend any other people to speak with to get a different perspective your industry. Please know that neither of those suggestions is going to make you seem overly self-promotional; your bosses want to hear that you have a deep interest in your work.
Also, try using networking events as a way to present interesting work you’re doing to people who legitimately are interested, rather than to stealthily blend into the wallpaper until you think it’s safe to leave. Talk to people in small groups, collect business cards, follow up with short emails, and ask to have coffee some time to learn more about what those people are doing. Business people have been having coffee with new contacts for years. No need to be embarrassed.
I’ve worked with many people very much like you who listen to the advice I just gave above, nod appreciatively, and say, “You’re right, I should definitely do that.” Then they don’t. OK, no harm done. But there’s also no harm done in asking for advice from people who see how much you offer to your team, your manager, your clients, and your company.
Go for it.