Seeking out coaches, professors, and advisors to help you hone skills and plan career steps is essential. This need for guidance doesn’t dissipate after years in the workforce. We benefit from the input of mentors who have been through what we’re grappling with, and who can foresee what we can’t yet recognize.
Even Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has a mentor. Gates describes his “global health mentor,” Dr. Bill Foege:
“At 6 feet 7 inches, Bill [Foege] is certainly tall in stature. But he stands even taller in reputation. His intelligence, leadership, and humility over the last six decades have proven invaluable in the fight against disease and poverty. In the field of global health, he is a giant.”
It's endearing to hear Gates gush about the “giant” who aids Gates’ continued personal evolution.
Holly Brittingham, Senior Vice President of Global Talent and Organizational Development with Foote, Cone & Belding, FCB Global, explains: “The best mentoring relationships, in my opinion, grow naturally out of shared interests, the mentee’s willingness to be a little bit vulnerable, and the mentor’s willingness to offer support and guidance. Anyone who has spent time navigating a career in the modern workplace knows that it can be fraught with pitfalls and surprises. Having a mentor can be like having a place of refuge in a storm, a person to offer the wisdom and perspective of someone who has seen similar storms and can and help point the way to calmer waters.”
Mentorship matters, and you don’t have to choose just one type of mentor. These six types of mentors can be vital to your success and wellness:
Career track/industry mentor
This is the mentor with whom you talk shop. S/he makes you feel thrilled to be your brand of professional because s/he is so fun to share it with. Every time you chat with this mentor, you learn something new about the profession you both love.
This is the type of mentor that Bill Gates has in Dr. Foege. It’s the mentor who knows your industry and helps you navigate that terrain. This is the mentor to whom you pose ideas like: “maybe I should go back to school,” or “I’ve been thinking of pursuing a management role.” You know that s/he will nerd down into that with you, and help you explore the question.
This is your go-to expert about all things financial. S/he is a great resource when you are trying to muster up your savvy to nail a salary negotiation or to earn a raise. This is the pro to whom you pose tricky questions like “should I attempt to maintain an HSA this year, rather than enrolling in my usual plan?”
S/he is also your rock when you’ve got worries-like when a security breach leaves your data exposed or an unexpected tax bill surfaces. Your financial mentor teaches you to be a better financial planner and to troubleshoot the unexpected.
This pro has a high EQ and a giant network. S/he has the uncanny ability to accomplish anything with a phone call, a lunch or a happy hour. This is a helpful mentor to tag along with, because some soft skills are best absorbed through observation.
Brittingham describes this twist on the typical relationship: “[S]enior leaders receive insight from younger employees, particularly in instances where the younger ‘digital natives’ can provide guidance and explanation about technological advances and, more simply, their generation’s perspective on the world.” She explains that while the usual paradigm is that the mentor assists the mentee, the relationship nurtures both ways.
Brittingham writes, “I regularly hear mentors say that they learn as much – if not more – from the interactions as their mentees do.”
Your core spiritual beliefs are aligned with your spiritual mentor. S/he helps you see the big picture-how you truly feel about where you are professionally and personally. If one element of your life is out of balance, this mentor helps you determine how to find harmony because s/he gets you, on a deep level.
Whether it’s a simple lunch invitation or a nuanced pitch for a more inclusion workplace, this mentor knows how to shape a message with style, clarity and empathy. Communicating elegantly, purposefully and kindly goes far in both the professional and the personal spheres. Communication is a core component of most jobs. If you discover someone who does this with aplomb, then make it your mission to learn from him or her.