So … work has been going really well lately. In fact, you just had a performance review (all very positive!) and your boss recommended that you enroll in the company’s mentoring program. She gave you high praise for your technical skills and productivity, but thinks you’d benefit from working with a mentor who “can help you build a big picture understanding of the business.”
Wait, what? Is this good news?
Yes! Turns out there was a meeting recently (don’t worry, you weren’t invited) where your firm’s senior leadership went through a big spreadsheet, writing “Hi-Po” next to several names, including yours—identifying you as a high potential employee.
So yes, congratulations are in order; firms don’t invest this kind of time and resource in low-potential employees. Embrace this opportunity!
From the Top
“Having a mentor is either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ important for career development”
Survey of 2,200 CFOs nationwide, Accountemps
Why all the fuss about your career? It’s quite simple: Right now, employers like yours are wrestling with several once-in-a- generation shifts:
- The continuing transition to a tertiary, service-based economy that has put a premium on client relationships and institutional knowledge, heightening the importance of knowledge transfer
- The looming retirement cliff, in which significant numbers of boomers (whose kids are finally leaving the house and whose 401(k) balances have finally recovered) are leaving the workforce, taking with them significant knowledge and relationships
- The emergence of the millennial workforce (that’s you!) who are technically skilled, but as demanding and hard-to- figure-out as ever
Smart firms know that client retention is closely correlated with employee retention. And in a strong economy, they finally have the breathing room (and the funds) to invest in their best people, and focus attention on you and your fellow Hi-Po’s.
“Millennials are, in essence, ‘venture consumers’…They’re looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.”
—Jamie Gutfreund, CMO, Wunderman
OK, so why do I need a mentor?
But enough about the boss; how will working with a mentor help you? It’s clear that you are already making a significant contribution to your company’s success; now is the time to ask for an extra level of support—new development opportunities, a greater connection to the organization, and appreciation/validation for the work you do.
Until now, you may not have been aware of the benefits of accessing this resource pool. But done right, a mentoring relationship can help you in ways that your co-workers or manager simply can’t. A good mentor will:
- Look at your career from a broader perspective: Your co-workers are in the trenches with you; your boss is accountable for monthly results. What about the long-term? Think of a mentor as a lighthouse for your career journey; you work hard with the ship’s captain and your shipmates to navigate the constant shifts in tides and currents, but the lighthouse serves as a reference to your longer-term goals.
- Help you with key ‘soft’ skills: You’re technically proficient, but you could sure use help with improving the intangibles you need to move ahead—relationships, communications, negotiation, strategic thinking. You won’t gain these skills from a workshop or on-line tutorial; you earn them over time, and learn them by tapping into those willing to share their experiences.
- Act as a sounding board—minus the judgment: More than ever, we crave feedback and validation—am I doing well? How do I compare to my peers? There are plenty of reasons to feel inadequate (i.e., the incessant, esteem-busting ‘brag-fest’ that social media inflicts on you). Wouldn’t it be great to have a relationship with an informed, neutral resource where it’s all about you?
“Mentoring will give young professionals the opportunity to talk candidly and learn from someone older and more experienced, in a relaxed and non-threatening way,”
—Tim Elmore, GrowingLeaders.com
What do you think? Would you welcome this kind of resource for your career journey? Then it’s time to sign up for that mentoring program!
[Next time we’ll talk about how to identify the ideal mentor].