To Find A Mentor, You Must Be A Student

I was lucky. In my first job after college, I had a great mentor who took an active role in my career development.

He pushed. I listened.

Actually, make that ‘hung on every word.’ The fact that anyone would take time out of their schedule to coach a newbie like me was a gift… and I knew it.

Example: When I asked for a raise, he made me “demonstrate I was worth it” by…

  • Reading a series of books (How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc.).
  • Writing a paper about what I learned from each one.
  • Finding an operational problem in the office and solving it using TQM processes. (The result was a binder of information and charts.)

Along the way, there were a lot of naysayers who thought he was just stalling because he didn’t want to pay me more or give me the promotion. In fact, many people I spoke to were borderline appalled someone would have to jump through so many hoops to earn a raise they were probably entitled to anyway.

But I knew better.

Eventually, I did get the promotion. I’m sure it’s not surprising that I was better prepared to tackle the new challenges because of all of the pre-work I had done in advance. Since then, my old boss has had many new professionals work under him. Yet, he’s had no official “mentee” since me. When I asked him why, he said “No students.”

In other words, finding a mentor is only half the battle. After that, you must be a good student. Listen gratefully. Apply what you’ve learned to your work. Demonstrate enthusiasm so he/she feels their investment in you is meaningful. It’s not the quickest route to success by any stretch, but I promise you the journey is its own reward.

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