By Chris Myers – forbes.com – View Original
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors who were willing to take a bet on me and provide meaningful opportunities for growth. These mentors have not only taught me about what is important (both personally and professionally); they have also given me several big breaks.
The value of the mentor/mentee relationship continues to be made clear to me each and every day. I know that I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it weren’t for the impact and guidance of my mentors. Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned about mentorship that I think can help anyone find career success.
Don’t be afraid to seek out mentorship
As the leader of a growing company, one thing that has always amazed me is the lack of enthusiasm that young employees tend to have about the concept of mentorship. I’m not sure if it’s simply a Millennial trait or something else, but I’ve never once had a team member actively seek out formal mentorship from senior members of the team.
If I could give young professionals one piece of advice, it would be to ask someone to mentor them. Mentors aren’t going to go out of their way to drag someone along if they don’t show initiative. Mentorship is something that requires strong commitment from both parties, and takes a lot of effort. The end results, however, are more than worth it. I can personally attest to the fact that the lessons, connections, and opportunities that mentors provide are invaluable. It’s up to you, however, to ask and take advantage of what mentors can offer.
Learn to recognize the accelerators in your life
My first job right out of college was an internship at a real estate investment trust by the name of Cole Capital. It was an interesting place to work, but my role was of no particular importance. Still, I was thrilled to have the opportunity and put an insane amount of effort into even the most menial of tasks. This behavior caught the attention of the CEO’s personal assistant, who went out of her way to connect me with him. This was a huge opportunity, but one that could have easily been overlooked.
Fortunately, I recognized the favor she was doing for me and I ended up developing a very close relationship with the CEO, Christopher Cole. Mr. Cole was the first major accelerator in my career, quickly introducing me to the world of entrepreneurship, writing, and executive management. His impact on the trajectory of my life cannot be overstated, and I continue to owe him a great debt of gratitude to this day.
Remember that mentorship is a two-way street
Too many young professionals fail to realize that mentorship is a two-way street. You have to deliver tremendous value to your mentor as well, and that often means working longer and harder than those around you.
This lesson came into play with the second major accelerator and mentor in my life, my cofounder at BodeTree, Matt Ankrum. Matt hired me to work on his strategy team at Apollo Group after an extensive search process. I really wanted the job, and committed to outworking everyone in order to get it. I went out of my way to develop a strong strategy proposal for the team, going so far as to have it professionally designed and printed. While this may seem like a trivial thing, it helped me to stand out among other, better qualified candidates. It also proved to Matt that I was dedicated to delivering exceptional value to him and the rest of the team.
This attitude continued after I was hired, and I made a point to work harder and longer than anyone in order to make the team more successful. Towards the end of our tenure at Apollo, Matt managed to coax the initial concept for BodeTree out of me. Much to my surprise, he not only was supportive of the idea; he wanted to be part of it. He took a huge risk on his young employee because he believed in the vision and passion that I brought to the table. Had I failed to work hard for him and prove my dedication, BodeTree would never have been born. Nearly everything that has led me to this point in my life is a direct result of working to provide tremendous value to my mentors.
I firmly believe that mentorship is the best path to career success, hands down. The benefits that you can gain from a good mentor relationship can outweigh grad school, natural ability, and even dumb luck. The key is to have the foresight and humility to ask to be mentored. If you start there, you’ll find that there are plenty of accelerators in your life who can add value. More importantly, you can take it upon yourself to add tremendous value for them. In doing so, you’ll ensure that you get the most out of the mentor relationship and find success in your life and career.