Catherine Davis is a thought partner, creative collaborator, and corporate guru purposed to help job seekers clarify career goals, master their message, and connect purposefully. With her insight and expertise she shares how maybe we’ve been going about finding a mentor in the wrong way.
What if I told you that the mentor you sought out, in your field, was the biggest mistake you’ve made for your career growth? That your mentor choice is the reason you’re stuck- paralyzed and motionless, not growing, stagnant and wondering what’s next. Yep, I said it and maybe you don’t know it yet but I’m absolutely right. Controversial I know, don’t get mad, stay with me.
When I changed my ‘mentor requirements’ I changed my world. I was taught to find a person that was successful doing exactly what I wanted to do, they could teach me and help me to get where they were – a person that had the skills I needed to be successful in that arena. The problem with that method, however, rang loudly in my ears as I discovered that what I ‘wanted to do’ wasn’t the only thing I ‘wanted to do.’
In fact, what I ‘wanted to do’ wasn’t even what I was purposed to do at that time (that’s a story for another day). Like everything in life, my thoughts had evolved and yet I was stuck to the expectations within this mentor relationship and that’s where my mentor could neither recognize the changes nor assist me. Not because they weren’t genuinely concerned and crazy talented but because at that point my needs for growth were outside of the arena in which they dominated.
So, what now? I’m developing and evolving and more than being boxed into a role expectation, I need to learn the ‘how’ in getting where I desire to go. This is when I discovered that I needed a mentor who would challenge and support me in building competence, not skills.
When you think of skill, think of the ‘what.’ Mopping a floor is a skill. It’s the act of performing an activity. Competence in mopping a floor is ‘how’ it’s done, the method. It’s the efficiency in which the skill is achieved. Skill is important but without competence it is underutilized and unimportant in attaining anything worthwhile. That’s why many people are skilled and can’t get further than knowing how to do something well- they’ve never learned ‘how’ to make the skill ‘work’ for them.
You might think that having a mentor in your field can help you achieve both – and honestly you may get lucky BUT that shouldn’t be your sole requirement in mentorship. Let’s be real, if you and your mentor are crazy about stocks and bonds – while you’re attempting to learn how to start your own firm, the conversation can often get back to learning about stocks and bonds and while that’s important, how much longer will it take you to GO and accomplish the dreams that keep you up at night? Personally, each of my four mentors have nothing at all do with my occupation or business. Here’s what I’ve gained as a result:
New Ideas – Every single time I walk away from time with one of my mentors, I have a new idea or piece of information they’ve leveraged in their respective businesses and simply because it’s a solid METHOD, it works for me too.
Confidence – They know I have the skills and teaching them gives me an opportunity to be affirmed in my learning and understanding. Besides, I’m the expert in my life and you mentor (if competent) will understand that.
Market knowledge – Simply put, as much as they’re my mentors they are also my customers (because we’re not in the same field they can buy what I’m selling – see what I did there?). And if they don’t love my offerings, they can tell me that too and I know they represent at least another sector of customers who might have the same reservations. More than likely they believe in my services and they share with other influential people about me. Ah the power of marketing!
Growth – They are not tied to my end game other than wanting me to be successful so we spend time on my high competency areas and I watch each of them in the things they do better than I do. This instantly gives me a formula to grow.
Each of us are unique and God never gives copycat vision. Consider a prospective mentor as a roadmap—not the destination. The one who can support your journey with a few ‘how tos’ they’ve learned in their journey. If you need help actually driving the car, that’s another conversation…
Takeaways On Mentorship