There is a good chance that you don’t have a mentor right now and are not even considering entering into such a relationship in the near future. Yet athletes have mentors, actors have mentors and business leaders have mentors. Why not technology professionals? Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider engaging a mentor:
1. The structure provides automatic accountability
I have three mentors and I am fortunate for having each one of them. This always happens: A few days before my meeting with each of my mentors, I start attending to several of my pending matters. My mentors don’t even have to ask me about things I promised to act on. I will take care of these things because I want to be ready with a “good” answer if they do ask me. The mentoring relationship in a way has built-in accountability.
2. They may ask you questions that you may never ask yourself
Sometimes you may put off answering some questions just because you can. You will do this even typically for questions where you know the answers are not pretty. By postponing asking the hard questions you are not solving any problem, you are just avoiding the short-term pain. Your mentor may not be so nice to you. He or she has no problem asking those hard questions and actually prompting you to start doing something about those questions.
3. You can learn to reflect
A mentor does not have an alternate agenda except to help get the most out of you. So you never have to worry about any other side-effects as you discuss your life and work issues. That in itself will let you open up and reflect on things at a level that you have never seen before.
4. Discover the “real” problem and get help to solve it
Sometimes we keep messing with symptoms rather than attacking the real problems. I have found time and again that I discuss a particular problem with my mentor and actually we end up solving the “real” problem. Solving the “real” problem will in turn solve the symptomatic problems that you first set out to solve.
5. You may escape from “short-term thinking”
Being in the technology world, you have no option but to be “current buzz-word compliant” to ensure you are in the race. This means that you have to be running (hard) just to stay where you are. While this is great for short-term success, you can’t ignore your long-term goals. Your mentor may help you balance the time you spend between short-term and long-term goals.
6. Get a “responsible” alternate perspective
You may have other avenues where you can get alternate perspectives on a particular topic or issue. However, when a mentor provides an alternate perspective, there is a dose of responsibility that comes packaged with it. In other words, your mentor has a higher stake in the outcome than your peers and friends do.
7. Get into the “thinking” habit
Every hour I spend with my mentors, my thinking will go to an overdrive mode. Most often, you get carried away and practice “thinking on the go” – meaning you will think while you are engaged in doing something. Mentoring will put a stop to that and start you on a “thinking” path. I am sure none of us will argue on the importance of the need to think.
8. Get ready to welcome new possibilities
While everyone around you may be trying to “fix” things with you, your mentor will look at how you can capitalize on your strengths. Rarely can you claim to be aware of all your strengths. Even if you do, you may not be making the most of them. A mentor can work with you to ensure that you are spending most of your time in the areas of your strengths and also take care of other things (where you are not that good) by putting a suitable structure in place.
9. Learn to be in balance
Mahatma Gandhi said, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.” While you may know this, being in the technology world, chances are that you may be neglecting several other parts of your life. With your mentor’s help, you can be assured of living a more balanced life.
10. Get help to distinguish yourself in the marketplace
Unless you distinguish yourself, you will be part of the commodity crowd. Not doing anything about it will only erode your value in the marketplace. Distinguishing yourself is a journey and not a destination. What is special today will no longer be special tomorrow. Your mentor can act as a catalyst here to help you rise above the commodity crowd quickly. If you are smart and disciplined, with or without a mentor you may succeed.
Why not increase your odds by engaging with a mentor?
Photo courtesy: US Army IMCOM on Flickr