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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

Reference

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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