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How to Find Career Mentors More Easily

How to Find Career Mentors More Easily

In movies like Coach Carter and Remember the Titans, when the team is out of their depth and in need of direction, the coach comes in to pick up the team and set them right. Career mentors do the same thing. When you feel lost in your career, a mentor will be there to remind you what you’re fighting for and suggest how to get it. The greatest mentors will open doors to help you succeed.

Having great mentors is the best way for you to get your career moving and reach your goals as fast as possible. But, for many, finding a mentor seems like an awkward endeavor.

If you think finding a career mentor feels awkward, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it right. Developing mentor/mentee relationships should feel as easy and fun as developing a friendship. Approaching possible mentors with this mentality makes all the difference.

Seek Out Friends, Not Mentors

Stop seeking out a mentor altogether. The entire idea of molding another person’s career, of being a mentor, sounds exhausting. Go ahead and imagine taking time from your busy day to develop someone else’s career.

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People are too busy developing their own career to respond to your plea that they take time help develop yours.

Rather than seeking out a mentor, it’s better to focus on simply touching base with others in the career you want to pursue. Then, after touching base, focus on creating friendships. Offer praise and seek advice, but never say “Will you mentor me?” Instead, become people’s friend and let those friendships grow into relationships that will grant you insight and education. These friends will mentor you without the title that makes the interaction feel like work.

Focus on Giving, Not Getting

Most people won’t want to stop what they’re doing to help you get a career underway. Doing so is difficult and takes a lot of time. On top of this, a lot of people asking for mentors aren’t worth the time. They’ll turn out to be lazy or incompetent, and only serve to add frustration to their mentor’s life. Harsh, but true.

This is why, rather than asking for something, it’s better to give something instead. What you have to offer will be unique to you. You may give insight, praise, or you may be able to offer an expertise you already have.

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When I started reaching out for my career as a writer, I gave the only thing I felt I could offer. A lot of praise. It was all genuine, but offering honest praise meant that I had to contact writers I truly admired. The risk of that rejection was scary, and I was lucky that all the writers I contacted for advice were responsive and eager to help a loyal reader get started.

Instead of contacting someone with the request for help, offer them something. Make your request secondary and they’ll appreciate that you’re putting them first.

Build Slowly, Don’t Rush It

Mentorship. It just sounds formal, doesn’t it? Like something you pay $20 an hour for. But by now, you know that effective mentoring shouldn’t be like that! You know that mentorships should be friendships, and friendships don’t develop from a single email or a 10 minute introduction. Instead, they develop slowly through continued interaction. Building a strong relationship is about offering praise, asking for advice, and discussing your ideas over time.

It’s slow, it requires restraint (especially when you’re approaching your role models), and it requires tact. But slowly-built relationships, made from occasional monthly emails or phone calls, are more versatile and reliable than relationships made from a collection of questions asked via cold call. So go slow: you have your whole life to succeed; don’t sabotage that success by rushing an important relationship.

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Remember There Are Other Ways

Taking it slow can drive you insane. I know because I’ve been there. You want a mentor so you can get coffee and spend hours picking their brains. But rushing a friendship with a mentor, and relying too heavily on them in the beginning, is a surefire way to push a mentor away. Instead of relying solely on someone to mentor you, it helps to use other resources to learn as you let your relationship incubate.

Books – Books are amazing tools when it comes to learning, and I already touched on the importance of reading in How to Remember More of What You Read. But it can’t be overstated.

Forums – These give you the opportunity to learn from others. You gain a sort of proto-mentorship, and you can see what problems others in your desired field are having. It’s always easier to learn from the mistakes of others, and this is a great mentor substitute.

Courses – Courses are a double whammy because you develop important knowledge while bolstering your resume and/or portfolio by gaining a new credential in the form of that course. Also, there are courses for everything! A quick Google search may blow your mind in terms of the number of possible courses there are out there.

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Return the Favor

Finally, after you’ve gotten a mentor and your relationship is solidified, make sure to remember these times when you’re down the road. Someday someone will be asking for your help. Remember when you felt lost and don’t let your success and busy schedule keep you from offering the helping hand you needed at one point in your life.

Mentoring not only grows the mentee, but it grows the mentor as well.

Do you have a mentor? How did the two of you develop your relationship? What tips do you have for other people looking for a mentor in their desired field?

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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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