By Thom Singer, CSP
A SPECIAL SECTION BROUGHT TO YOU BY MEETING PROFESSIONALS INTERNATIONAL
“What are the worst and the best outcomes that can happen to you because of this choice?”
I ask this question of my mentees, Nic and Jake, on a regular basis. They are ambitious young executives in different industries who sought me out for career guidance. After five years we have developed close friendships, but my role as mentor is to help them realize a variety of points of view in order to make thoughtful choices. I give truthful and timely advice, but in the end, they have to make their own decisions.
Navigating a career over the long run is never easy, but it can become more manageable if you have trusted advisors in place. When there are unknown changes in your future, you do not want to face them alone.
Up for a big promotion? Ready to change companies? Time to start your own business? Any of these situations can seem overwhelming, especially if it is the first time you have faced a career-changing decision. This is when a mentor is invaluable, but to have the right advisor available to you, the relationship has to be established long in advance.
Successful people often cite advice from mentors as the key reason behind significant choices in their careers. Yet finding a mentor and establishing a close long-term connection is not as easy as it sounds. Companies and associations often try to match people via mentor programs, but finding a true connection is about more than being matched up on a list. A real mentorship is a relationship where both parties learn to respect and trust each other and stay connected over time.
As a speaker at dozens of “young professional” meetings for organizations across a variety of industries, I find that the topic of mentors usually leads to long lines of questions. Next-generation professionals are aware of the impact mentors can have on their careers but have no idea of how to find the right person. They know others who have benefited from a committed relationship with a trailblazer who is available for consultation and advice, but few of these young go-getters have found their own guides.
Jana Thompson from On Point Hospitality & Site Selection started in the hotel business, where her first boss went out of his way to help her grow her career. He was demanding but took the time to develop her and the others on the team. At one point she was going to take an offer from a competitor, but he fought to keep her on his team and then promoted her several times. She realized then that having a mentor who was committed to her success was better than chasing a few more dollars.
Thompson is a big fan of being involved with industry groups such as MPI. When she started her own meetings business, again it was mentors who opened doors. She met someone who had also spun off from the hotel side to start a meeting consulting company, and he became her mentor. They talked often and he was always available to her when she had questions. He was calm, thoughtful and gave her confidence in making hard decisions.
Have you dreamed of knowing a strong player in the meeting industry who would be deeply interested in your personal and professional success? Many say yes but do not know what it really means or how to find someone to serve in this role.
Often finding such a person is like dating. It involves putting yourself out there, observing people you admire and then establishing a connection. Eventually, if you want more than just a LinkedIn relationship, you have to ask them if they would be willing to be your mentor. Some may say yes, but too often people are unsure what this even means. Creating an understanding of what this means for the mentor and mentee can be the key to long-term success.
A mentor will help you find clarity. A mentor will give you a fresh perspective, as you will otherwise only be able to view the issue from your own vantage point.
Here’s what can you expect from a mentor
- A mentor will help you find clarity. A mentor will provide a fresh perspective, as you will otherwise only view the issue from your own vantage point.
- A mentor will help you set goals. Create a plan with your mentor with concrete ways to achieve the goals within your plan. A mentor will be able to assist you with designing the right goals to allow you to grow.
- A mentor will serve as your guide. Yes, there will be times when you will want your mentor to make decisions for you, but a good mentor will only coach you on how to make the choice, not on which choice to make.
- A mentor will help you expand your network. When you establish a long-term relationship with a mentor, you get access to other people in that leader’s circle of influence.
- A mentor gives you confidence. When you have a mentor, you can face all decisions with the confidence that you have reviewed the whole situation.
What should a mentor expect from you?
- A mentee should drive the early stages of the relationship. Nobody wants to call and say, “Hi, how can I mentor you today?” Reach out on a regular basis to share information about how things are going in your life.
- A mentee must be open to the mentor’s thoughts and suggestions. While you may not always agree with the perspectives shared, you can gain valuable insight from a leader who has your best interests at heart.
- A mentee should always be respectful of the mentor’s time and be grateful for the commitment to you. “Please” and “thank you” should be a regular part of the conversation.
- A mentee should seek ways to help the mentor. While you may not be able to provide value to your mentor initially, if you take an active interest in your mentor’s life and career, you just might find ways to be a resource. Ask your mentor how you might help.
- A mentee should never expect the mentor to make the hard decisions. It is your life and your career. You need to choose your actions.
Jake and Nic tell me that my greatest contribution to their careers is how I keep them grounded when they have those moments of uncertainty. When faced with change, a strong mentor is a key resource for moving through the change with thought and purpose toward the accomplishment of your goals.
Mentorship can be the key to your future professional success in the meeting industry and beyond.
Thom (MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter) is a leadership speaker and master of ceremonies. He is the author of 12 books and the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast. Contact him at http://www.ThomSinger.com or (512) 970-0398.