Not everyone can — or should — jump into their career headlong without a plan of where they’re going. This is particularly true in today’s competitive workplace climate. Mentorships can bridge that gap between emerging into a new career and becoming a successful leader in that field. In fact, research shows that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects within personal, academic, and professional situations, ultimately connecting them to personal growth and development, as well as social and economic opportunities, according to the National Mentoring Partnership.
Investing in the next generation of leaders depends exponentially on the guidance of a mentor. All the book smarts straight out of college can’t prepare graduates for the nitty gritty, on-your-feet-all-day, in-the-trenches work that makes up a CIO’s day. As a critical thinking, people-centric, quick learning, impeccably organized and determined professional, you know how many years it took you to get where you are now. Couldn’t you have used a mentor yourself? Someone to guide you, cut through the clutter, and offer insight that no college lecture hall can really provide?
The workforce is expanding in droves. More than one in three American workers today are Millennials, recently surpassing Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, says the Pew Research Center. Many of them are getting jobs in leadership positions, or at least poised to inherit them in the near future, leaving a real need for practical experience that can only be gleaned by forming a bond with a seasoned professional.
Defining a Mentorship
In a nutshell, a mentor is a more experienced, usually older professional in a given field who offers younger, less experienced employees career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point of view. Taking part in a mentorship not only enhances your professional capabilities, but you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, and — if you’re lucky — could end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner, points out Forbes.
It doesn’t have to be the standard model either. A mentorship could involve a younger person guiding an older person who decided to make a career change late in life. Whatever the mentor-mentee relationship looks like, at its heart, it’s based on one person who’s “been there, done that” showing a fresh-faced up-and-comer what the real deal is.
As human beings, we’re constantly evolving and learning. Even the most experienced leader doesn’t know all there is to know about the business they’re in. A mentor can provide valuable insight to bring about perspective, positive change and awareness.
A Committed Partnership
Just remember: mentorship is nothing to take lightly. Don’t offer your services to someone who isn’t firmly committed, and don’t accept a mentorship from someone else if you’re not willing to put in the work. This is a true team effort requiring strong commitment from both parties, says Forbes. The lessons, connections, and opportunities that mentors provide offer exponential benefits — when both parties are receptive to the opportunity.
Taking this path to success involves the ability to recognize and embrace major accelerators in your career. The benefits to mentees are clear. But what about mentors? What’s in it for them? You can look at it from the perspective of leaving a legacy, passing down wisdom from one generation to the next. Mentors have the power to make a powerful impact — not just within a company and the industry, but for future leaders as well.
[This piece was originally published on Divergent CIO, a blog created by Brian Thomas, VP & CIO at Swope Health Services. To follow him on Twitter, click here.]
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