Last week, we discussed internal mentors and why you should have one. Having a mentor outside your organization is also critical. Why? Simply because they are not part of your corporate culture.
They will have a different view and can provide you perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have. Plus, it’s good to know what’s happening ‘out there’.
They have no skin in the game. They are not competing with you internally; they have no conflicting agenda that might shade their advice to you.
Life changes, business changes. If you should leave your company by choice or not, you need contacts and advocates and sounding boards who are not attached to your company and all the emotional baggage that may come with it.
Mentors are an important factor cited in study after study on career success. If you are committed to your career success, you should not ignore the power of mentoring.
I’m not talking about waiting for your organization to tap you on the shoulder and offer you a place in a formal mentoring program (if it even has one). A mentor can be formal or informal, long-term or short-term, broad or narrow-focused. Yes, I’m using the term ‘mentor’ very broadly.
Formal mentoring programs can offer fantastic opportunities for growth, but what if the tap never comes? And, even if it might some day, why wait? Whether you use formal or informal channels, make having a mentor from inside your organization a priority.
Having mentors inside your organization is important because they are operating in the same world you are. They will be more familiar with the corporate culture, policies and processes, which can be of great help to you in navigating them. They also may end up serving as an advocate for you internally, and goodness knows, we can never have too many advocates.
What new work experiences have you had in the last 12 months?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I do identify aspirations. This year, one of them was to be uncomfortable as often as possible. Seems weird, I know. Except that being uncomfortable almost always means doing something new. And when I do something new, I learn. I grow. I add to my toolkit.
If you can’t remember the last time you experienced something new in your work, you have stagnated. It’s time to raise your hand, take on that project, ask for that new stretch assignment. What can you do that’s new?
Do you read materials from inside your industry or field?
Okay, after last week’s post, you knew that was coming. Reading magazines, journals, blogs – whatever – from inside your industry or field is critical. If you want to stay on top, you have to stay on top of what’s happening, keep your knowledge sharp. In today’s world, there’s no excuse not to.
Do you read materials from outside your industry or field?
Why outside? Put simply, the more widely read you are, the more likely to have a broader view of where your company fits into the world at large. Of how new technology, consumer trends or economic conditions elsewhere may affect the business. It allows you to be more strategic and I would suggest, more creative. Not to mention, a whole lot more interesting.
One of my favorite outlets for reading that expands my mind is Fast Company (magazine or online.) What do you like to read?
Do you know the unwritten rules of success in your workplace?
If you’re not sure, you don’t. In order to know them, you have to pay attention. You have to observe which behaviors get rewarded and which don’t. Sometimes they’re in alignment with the corporate values statement or policies and sometimes they’re not. Sounds like one big grey area, right? Well, yes. Which is why many people get tripped up. But pay attention to those who have already attained success in the organization. How do they operate? They’ve figured it out the unwritten rules and you might too, if you observe them. Also, if you’ve got an internal mentor, or someone else you trust, even better. Why not ask them?
If you never do, believe me it has been noted. Leaders learn very quickly who among their team will do only what is asked and no more, and if that is you, it’s hurting your career. Leaders need team members who take initiative and think beyond a checklist. Those who don’t are often considered plodders at best and slackers at worst. However, if you always do more than is asked of you, you may become overwhelmed, burned out or bitter. This is what we call a boundary issue.
Learn to find a happy medium. Choose with intent. One question you can ask yourself when presented with choice about whether to go above and beyond is: will my additional actions provide additional value, or am I just doing this out of habit or to get a pat on the back?
Do you have a good relationship with your leader? Take my quick Career Wellness Checkup poll:
Your direct leader is in the best position to tout you or torpedo you. They will generally be perceived as the most credible source when it comes to your performance. If you don’t have a good relationship, how realistic is it to expect that they will advocate for you? For that project you really want to participate in, for that promotion, for that bonus?
You don’t have to be their best friend, but if you are talking smack behind their back, the negativity is coming through somewhere, trust me. Recognize that your leader is an important part of your network. They may become a mentor, a sponsor. Don’t neglect that relationship or but develop it.
Do you know who your internal clients are? Take my quick Career Wellness Checkup poll:
Unless you are the CEO, you absolutely have internal clients of some sort. These may or may not be the actual recipients of your services. They are the individuals who have the ability to control or strongly influence whether or not the services provided by you, your team or your department will be “purchased”/utilized. For example, if you are in IT, every person who has a budget which they can allocate to technology if they choose is a client or potential client.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore the recipients of your services when they don’t hold the purse-strings. They may have influence on the decisionmakers even if they, themselves, aren’t actually making the purchasing decision. But it’s important to know who actually makes the cost/value judgement at the end of the day.
This year, I’m beginning a series of short posts based on my Career Wellness Checkup. The first one will appear next Monday. In each post, I’ll pose a question designed to help you diagnose the health of your career, and I’ll add a few thoughts about why the particular item is important.
It’s important to note that the focus of my Career Wellness Checkup (CWC) is a corporate setting. There are a number of questions which are irrelevant for the self-employed. Self-employment has many similar but also many different measures which I won’t cover here.
Either way, I hope you enjoy the posts, and I’d love to hear what’s working or not working for you.