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How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

How To Find That Key Person That Can Help You Progress in Your Career?

From the moment we enter this world, we rely on others for guidance. Our parents look after us, teach us how to make decisions, and face challenges. In school, we look to our teachers to help us learn and define our futures. What happens when we leave those formal settings and set out for work in the real world?

We’re so accustomed to having a constant source of feedback, that it can be a shock to step into a professional setting where we’re on our own. Even though we may have graduated to the next step on our career path, we still need guidance.

For the first time in your life, you feel like you’re on your own.

Being new to a career is tough. If you feel like you can hardly keep your head above water, you aren’t alone. One study suggests that one third of new employees quit their jobs within the first six months.[1] Even teachers, the very mentors we crave, have terrible retention rates–somewhere between 17 and 46 percent of them quit within the first five years.[2]

This common thread of job dissatisfaction that runs across many fields is due to a lack of coaching and feedback.[3] For many of us, taking a job is the first time that we don’t have someone guiding us. Suddenly there’s nobody to give us feedback, and the feedback that we do receive is mostly to tell us when we’ve done something incorrectly.

Why you should find a mentor to help your career progress.

Their expertise is invaluable.

Your mentor will have an understanding of the work that you do. They may be a few steps ahead of you on the corporate ladder, or they have worked the job longer. They are usually keenly aware of the internal workings of your place of employment.

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A first year teacher would benefit from partnering with a veteran teacher. The veteran teacher knows how to maximize class time, but they also know the community and the nuances of the school’s culture.

Mentors can offer you guidance about the skills and knowledge you need to be successful.

Many of the struggles that arise for rookies come from differences in education and a lack of understanding about their organization. Mentors can offer guidance about development opportunities that you can take to shore up any weaknesses.

A new educator arrives at their first teaching job with a teaching degree, but they may be teaching in an environment that is different from the places where they learned and student-taught. A mentor might suggest that they take a multi-cultural education class or offer information about customs that are unique to that school’s community.

They can provide constructive feedback.

Your mentor will tell you when you’ve made a mistake, but they’ll also help you come up with strategies for improvement. Nobody likes to fail, but when we are taking risks and trying to move along in our career path, we are bound to make a few blunders. As long as we learn from our mistakes, they can be a valuable part of the learning process.

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Perhaps you just gave your first presentation at work. Your leaders were not impressed with your talk. Your mentor noticed that you were fidgeting, using filler words, and mumbling throughout the talk. They may offer advice on how to exude confidence, and they may agree to go over your next presentation with you so that you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

They can see the big picture.

Since your mentor has been around for a while, they’ll have a broader perspective about the state of your organization or field. They’ve survived the upswings and downturns, and most of them are happy to keep others from making the same mistakes they made.

You’ve noticed that things are tense around the office. Your coworkers seem grumpy, and the stress is beginning to wear on you. Your mentor is the person who tells you what nobody else wants to talk about: a group of senior employees is going through a serious contract renegotiation. People are worried about keeping their jobs. Armed with this knowledge, you may be able to view your colleagues with compassion instead of disdain.

Instead of drowning in insecurities and uncertainties, look to others for guidance. Finding that one person who believes in your abilities can be the difference between moving along on your career path or starting over.

What’s in it for the mentor?

Finding a mentor can seem like a daunting task, but you are probably surrounded by potential coaches. Since mentoring involves time and energy on the part of mentors, they are only going to want to invest these valuable assets in mentees who show promise.[4] A mentor may agree to work with you if they see that you are a driven and capable worker.

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We’re all new to our jobs at some point, and the veterans among us know how that feels. Perhaps they feel a desire to give back to others after someone helped them.

Guiding rookie employees is an excellent way for mentor to advance in their own career. When their guidance contributes to your success, they are able to demonstrate their capacity as a leader. They can also delegate some tasks to you to free them up to work on bigger projects. To the experienced mentor, the tasks they are asking you to do are a real time-sink, but for the new employee, that type of work may be the training that you need to continue on your career path.

Where you can look for guidance

Good guidance can come from almost anyone in your organization or field. A formal mentoring relationship that develops organically over time is ideal, but there are also informal ways that you can find additional help.[5]

1. Speak up and voice your thoughts. The first step to finding a mentor is to show that you are engaged in the success of the organization. Giving voice to your ideas and concerns demonstrates that you take your work seriously.

2. Show your intentions by asking for feedback. Seeking constructive criticism will help you grow. Experienced colleagues will take notice of your desire for self-improvement when you ask for feedback. It is also much easier to mentor someone who clearly wants to improve.

3. Take Initiative. Going above and beyond in your assigned duties is another way to show potential mentors your motivation. No matter how minor your task is, execute it with a high level of care. Possible mentors will see a person who is capable of taking on bigger challenges. They’ll also be more likely to connect you with opportunities to advance your career.

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3. Take your peers as your mentors.[6] Coworkers doing the same job that you do may have a different approach. You could benefit from troubleshooting with them and emulating practices that make them effective. Even if you don’t adopt their methods, learning how to approach work in different ways can help you progress.

4. Observe people in higher-level positions. Whether or not you have a formal mentoring relationship with someone at a later stage in your career path, you can still pay attention to the way they work. The manner in which they organize their time, speak, dress, and interact with others can offer you clues about what you need to do to reach their level.

5. Take advantage of networking opportunities. When you go to conferences and professional development events, don’t be afraid to talk to people.[7] You might find your mentor, or at the very least, gain some insights into the industry.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of attending office social functions. You might strike up a conversation that helps you find someone to give you guidance.

Look for guidance to take control of your situation.

Richard Bransons and Elon Musks of the world didn’t become the successful people they are today without help. Even visionaries have moments when they aren’t sure what they are doing, and they have all been new to their jobs at some point. Finding a mentor (or several) can help you move from a position of uncertainty to a position of strength and confidence.

Featured photo credit: Original image by Gonzalo Martin. Modified by A. Phebus. via flickr.com

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

How to Become Smarter: 21 Things You Can Do Daily

How to Become Smarter: 21 Things You Can Do Daily

Although many people believe intelligence is limited to those with high I.Q.s, there are a number of potential methods to boost one’s cognitive abilities and become more effective at various professional and personal pursuits.

With enough motivation and determination, anyone can expand their mental capabilities and become smarter. Integrating new habits into your regular routine and providing proper stimulation can sharpen your intellect quickly and leave you inspired to take on new challenges each day.

So how to become smarter?

Brain health is an important key in complete physical health. The list below includes the best brain-engaging activities in daily life.

Inviting Novelty

To create new neural pathways and strengthen the brain, it’s critical for people to continually incorporate new experiences and information into their lives. At first, these moments might feel useless, but eventually, you will find yourself looking forward to quiet moments alone.

1. Visit New Places

Whether this means studying in a new coffee shop, taking a different route to work, or traveling to a different country, displacement is good for the brain. This might be difficult to recognize in the moment since it usually feels rather awkward – at least initially. At the coffee shop, you can’t order the “usual.” You have to study a new menu, pick something you have never tried before, and make a decision.

While this seems simple, people enjoy the comfort of habit. We like to know what to expect at all times. When you travel to a new country, the language is strange, the customs are unfamiliar, and the culture presents a strange new rhythm of life. Adjusting to these new elements forces the brain to tackle new, unexpected challenges.

Learning how to communicate through a language barrier forces the brain to develop creative ways to express needs and emotions. Listening to new music, trying new foods, and navigating foreign streets all work to challenge your brain’s capacity to adapt to new situations.

2. Continue Your Education

Adult education is one of the best investments of time, money, and energy you can make. While education is valuable throughout childhood and adolescence, adults often underestimate their ability to learn new concepts and skills.

Challenge yourself to take a class, academic or creative. Voluntarily choosing to continue education provides a perfect opportunity for your brain to create new connections and build higher intelligence.

Also check out these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

3. Read and Watch the News

This is one activity that maintains the appearance of habit while nurturing healthy brain waves. Setting aside half an hour every morning or evening to read a newspaper or watch the news will help your brain stay active.

Digesting new information is a good daily habit. The news introduces interesting topics to consider, and will leave your brain churning with new information.

4. Read

Reading is the most basic way to facilitate brain activity, but it often presents some of the most diverse opportunities for stretching brain capacity.

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Reading provides practical assistance by introducing new vocabulary, presenting examples of proper grammar usage, and showing the elegance of a well-written sentence. However, this is only half of the magic of reading.

Whether you choose fiction, non-fiction, historical literature, or poetry, reading offers an opportunity for the reader to make big-picture connections between the literature and real life. In this way, reading is an alternative way to make your brain travel to a new place.

As your imagination works to create tangible people, places, and experiences from the words on the page, your brain is rewiring to understand all the new information.

Here’re some great books to read:

5. Approach Work in New Ways

The workplace is a canvas for new experiences. Regardless of what type of job you might hold, everyone is at one time or another presented with opportunities to think outside the box, problem solve in a creative way, and contribute fresh ideas to the team.

Instead of stressing over each new problem, it’s important to relax and starting imagining alternatives for reaching an end goal.


Challenging Yourself

Like a weightlifter who develops muscles, one must exercise the brain on a daily basis, pushing it just beyond its current capabilities. As Albert Einstein once said,

“One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.”

This quote encapsulates what I believe about the brain. With enough focus and stretching, the brain can truly surprise people.

Underestimating yourself holds you back from success. When people begin believing in their abilities, they often go beyond what they thought was possible.

6. Do Brain Training

Organizations like Lumosity offer fantastic daily brain training. With puzzles and games designed to increase neuroplasticity, Lumosity was created to challenge the brain to make new connections.

A group of neuroscientists at University of California Berkeley developed this program to provide stimuli for the brain to push it to adapt and re-train itself in uncharted territory. Success stories abound concerning the results of this public experiment.

You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

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7. Ask 5 Whys When Encountering Problems

One of the most standard problem solving solutions, the 5 whys still provide a solid start to uncovering the root of a problem.

Asking a question gets the brain working to find an answer. Instead of worrying about the problem, always start by asking why.

Learn more about this problem solving framework here: How to Solve Any Problem Efficiently with 5 Whys (Step-By-Step Guide)

8. Eschew Technology to Keep the Brain in Shape

Technology does wonders for the modern world, but in some ways, technological dependence stunts the brain’s capacity for problem solving, adapting to new environments, and being a reliable resource for practical things like simple mathematics and navigation.

Try going on a trip without a GPS. Work a few algebra problems without a calculator. Make your brain work for you; you’ll see the results.

9. Foster Creativity

Finger-painting in preschool was not only a fun activity; it helped open up the mind to new possibilities and ways of solving problems. An artistic mindset creates new opportunities to find new solutions, fresh inspiration, and peaceful confidence.

The blend of these elements in both personal and professional environments allows ordinary people to shine by becoming an innovative thinker and inventive leader. Find ways to incorporate creativity into the dull grind of daily tasks.

Take a look at these 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity.

10. Draw

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the benefits of drawing, which cultivates brain activity in a unique way. In addition to nurturing basic hand-eye coordination, it sends synapses to neurotransmitters to help more permanently and vividly store your memories.

From doodles on a piece of scrap paper to charcoal portraits, drawing is a healthy brain activity for everyone.

11. Paint

Painting is an extension of drawing. It feeds the same areas of the brain; but unlike drawing, painting often introduces new and unfamiliar textures and colors to stimulate the brain.

Painters often have a keen sense of awareness towards their surroundings. Engaging in painting encourages people to notice minute details of the world around them. Focusing the brain in this manner brings a heightened state of alertness.

12. Play an Instrument

Learning to play an instrument also has outstanding benefits for the brain. Hand-eye coordination, memory, concentration, and mathematic skills all improve through playing an instrument. While some are more challenging to learn than others, any instrument facilitates increased and improved cognitive functioning.

From training your fingers to master complex musical passages on the piano to counting the beats in a musical measure, instruments force various regions of the brain to work together to create music.

13. Write

Like reading, writing encourages vocabulary growth, grammar skills, and use of proper syntax. Writing helps the brain store information more effectively and fosters better memory skills. Studies show that students who regularly take handwritten notes during college classes consistently score better on tests.[1]

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Writing forces a person to pay attention to their memories, experiences, and internal dialogues – a combination that increases brain function altogether.

Learn more about the benefits of writing: 5 Benefits of Writing: Why You Should Write Every Day

14. Role-Play

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and your brain starts to rewire to help you think like a different person.

For those struggling to form creative ideas, role-playing can help the wheels start turning in the brain to help develop unique solutions for difficult problems.


Working with Others

Although logical intelligence is important, emotional intelligence plays an equally vital part in overall success. Interacting with others helps people expand beyond their own limited thinking, gain new ideas, and see things from a different perspective.

People are challenging. Smart people often enjoy isolation because it protects them from being critical of others. However, this discomfort is necessary for truly smart people because it pushes them outside their bubble.

When you start to believe you have all the right answers, start collaborating with others to expand perspective.

15. Teach and Share Information with Others

Whether this is achieved virtually or face-to-face, pursue colleagues and peers to share experience and wisdom. Fresh faces and new ideas spur inspiration and create an amplified learning environment for the brain.

By creating a network for sharing ideas, your brain starts developing a new network for formulating and executing innovative concepts.

16. Talk to Interesting People

No two people share the same life experiences. Everyone interprets information uniquely, stores memories differently, and digests daily life with their own intellectual flare. This makes collaboration a necessity for brain health.

Although we are all inclined to think our method is the best approach, gaining perspective from another person helps our brain consider new solutions and new techniques for both personal and professional issues.

Whether the conversation is centered on religion, finances, politics, or diet trends, people should practice being a good listener. Silencing your own thoughts while the other person speaks is often challenging, but the brain needs discipline to stay sharp.

17. Work in a Team Environment

Collaborative environments are essential for enhancing brain activity. Some people who enjoy working independently dread the moment when they are forced to participate in a team-focused workplace. However, these independent individuals are highly intelligent and can benefit the most from a little teamwork.

Author Steve Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, focuses on the benefits of collaborating with peers and coworkers to develop original ideas and effective strategies for their execution. The modern workplace continues to shift towards this team-oriented approach.

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Cultivating Physical Health

The body feeds the brain, and keeping oneself in top physical condition is crucial to adequate fueling and operation of the brain. Lack of motivation, mental fatigue, and absence of inspiration are typically connected to poor exercise, diet, and focus.

18. Exercise

Studies constantly show people who exercise regularly have higher I.Q. scores.[2] In addition to maintaining a strong body, people who exercise regularly actually stimulate brain cell growth. A process called neurogenesis occurs during rigorous exercise, which increases the production of neurotransmitters. With side effects like increased dopamine, active people enjoy less stress, better concentration, and more energy.

Dr. Michael Nilsson of Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden conducted extensive research on the topic.[3] “Being fit means that you also have a good heart and lung capacity and that your brain gets plenty of oxygen,” the doctor said. His research focused on over a million Swedish military men, and Dr. Nilsson found a direct correlation between physical fitness and high scores on I.Q. tests.

19. Pursue Athletics

Multiple studies have shown active children typically do better in school and have a better chance of continuing their education after high school graduation. Although athletic pursuits can feel grueling at the time, the overall benefits of intense physical activity are wise for your future.

Whether it’s finding one thing you are good at, like basketball, running, or lifting weights, or trying something new every day, maintaining an athletic routine is important for optimal brain health.

20. Meditate

Controlling and calming the brain is as powerful as enhancing activity through instruments and puzzles. Doctors have been studying the effects of mediation on the brain for several years, and the results are impressive.

In one famous study, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin collaborated with the Dalai Lama to study what happens to the brain during meditation.[4]

Transcendental Meditation yields impressive results for the brain. People who struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments should experiment with meditation to calm themselves and develop a stronger sense of focus.

Here’s a The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime to help you start meditating.

21. Maintain a Nutritious Diet

Children and adults interested in boosting brain activity should begin by transforming their diet. Research from the University of Bristol in England points to a strong connection between unhealthy diet and low I.Q. scores in children.[5] To begin reversing unhealthy tendencies, try cutting out excess fat, sugar, and fast foods, and start adding more vegetables, fruit, and lean meats. These 12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health are good for you too.

There are also a number of unusual drinks proven to help brain function. Matcha green tea, raw cacao hot chocolate, and ginkgo biloba tea all show benefits for the brain. Some scientist claim ginkgo biloba helps pump more blood to the brain, improving circulation.

The Bottom Line

Creating daily routines to promote healthy brain activity doesn’t require the advice of a neuroscientist. While plenty of studies provide convincing evidence, increasing brain activity can be accomplished with a few basic steps.

Be intentional about your time and energy to start working towards a smarter and more fulfilling life.

More to Boost Your Brain Power

Featured photo credit: David Iskander via unsplash.com

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