Q: I listen to videos of “master class” presentations of successful people marketing their systems and methods for ways to make extraordinary amounts of money. But in their introductions, they always attribute their success to having met or connected to a person who had been willing to take them under their wing to teach them. And of course, those mentors or champions didn’t charge them. Perhaps those individuals took them in and taught them business because of family or social connections, but most people in the general public often don’t have those family connections, or even relationships with businesspeople who are willing to genuinely help others.
I think mentors are important to someone moving ahead in an organization. But when my friends and I talk about moving up and getting ahead, not one of us has ever met anyone who has gone out of their way to help us get there. Mentoring may have existed years ago, but it seems as if it’s dead. Out of all the millennials with degrees, you can’t tell me that none of us are worth promoting along the way, but it doesn’t seem to happen. My friends and I have business degrees, and we have all had to find new jobs to better ourselves financially and workwise. People who become sales reps can obviously be measured by their sales, but when you’re working on a team, it’s not always clear how much a person contributes, especially since there are always certain types who promote themselves beyond their honest contributions.
How do we recognize and connect with bosses who will extend themselves to help an employee who cares about work and wants to develop a future at that company?
A: Mentors can be the critical factor to a person’s success, which may be why we see nepotism in certain industries, such as the entertainment industry. Nepotism may be one of the keys to finding a mentor to enter a field, but if the person can’t produce, he or she won’t go far. While some companies have mentoring systems in place, most don’t and that’s where relationship-building skills become necessary. This may be the missing factor in many millennials’ repertoire.
Just as you can’t force a friendship, you especially can’t force a business acquaintance to become your mentor. A great boss should mentor direct reports as part of his or her job, but as you and your friends discovered, bosses may not have the time or the “heart” for it. Mentoring is a passion, no different than the person who chooses to hold a door for someone carrying a heavy package, or giving a driver the right of way when it’s not required, or offering a neighbor with a physical disability, temporary or otherwise, a ride to the store. Mentoring is giving oneself for the benefit of another, so it will be up to you to develop the ability to recognize that personality type. This skill will serve you throughout life, not just in the workplace.
Everyone has run into people who promise everything and deliver nothing. You can’t create a mentor, but when you recognize a boss or supervisor willing to open up to you and help, those are the relationships you’ll want to cultivate. Keep in mind a relationship, business and personal, is a two-way street. Don’t expect anyone to give endlessly if you don’t reciprocate in some way, even if all you can offer is extreme appreciation. A routine “thanks” won’t cut it, but sincere gratitude can take you far.
For information you may have missed in college, make reading and lifelong learning part of your routine and part of your life. A psychology book on personality types and biographies on self-made people — Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, W. Clement Stone and Tony Robbins — will open your eyes to the type of person you may want to become and to the events you may experience in your own life. Work is not just about the products you produce. It’s about relationships. The better you are at creating them, the greater your chances of being valued. Then the real mentors will find you.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/features/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak. COPYRIGHT 2021 CREATORS