When people are considering their career progression and thinking about making the next step up the ladder, they are usually asking themselves a number of important questions:
-What is my next role?
-Which is the hottest company I can join?
-Who is paying the most?
-Who has the best products?
-Who spends most on R&D, on Marketing, etc?
Having been recruiting for many years now, I never fail to be surprised at how rarely people ask or seemingly think about one of the most important questions of all – Who am I going to learn from?
One possible reason for this is that we work with senior level people, and once people reach this level maybe they don’t feel that they need additional learning. However, most of the best people I know, regardless of their level of seniority and success to date, want and value great leadership – they may not even consciously seek one but they will inevitably put great store in working closely with a great mentor.
My suspicion is that most people simply don’t know the value of a great mentor because they haven’t had one.
I think it comes down to either the fact that there are not many good mentors around, so people don’t know what they are missing, or that they fall into the age-old issue of “familiarity breeding contempt” and don’t notice the value they are getting until they have moved on and it’s too late.
I have interviewed/met more people than I have had hot dinners, literally, and yet I know that less than 1 in a 100 has made a point of having the goal of working for a great manager (and the mentor word has been even more scarce).
To be truly developed as a human being and a working professional takes a relationship that transcends that of the normal manager/subordinate. The benefits of such a relationship are great, for both parties.
While a manager is focused on managing his/her team to get the most productivity from them, a mentor will focus on what he/she can do to enable each individual in their team to reach their own personal peak performance in the short, mid and long term rather than simply aiming to achieve the team’s immediate goals.
The excellent mentor will be considering your career in his/her strategy, rather than just their own career and business goals. So yes, they are rare, but I believe that people should not accept a role with a company unless they can see clearly that they will be mentored.
Many will argue that this is pie in the sky, and that businesses these days are too busy to have their managers focusing on mentoring their team and considering each team member’s mid and long terms career aspirations. However, I believe that the 30-40 years you will invest working should not be spent with an organisation that will not.
We focus incredibly hard on working with partners who do have managers who mentor, and in return this makes recruiting for those organisations both easier and a great deal more satisfying.
Next time you are considering a career move, make sure you can identify your mentor before signing on that dotted line!!