Mark Zides

The importance of having a mentor/career coach

The idea that you have to do things alone is a closed-minded concept – yep, I said it. Every great leader and businessman has had a mentor or career coach. Elon Musk has multiple mentors, including Larry Page of Google. Google and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai’s mentor is former Columbia University football coach turned business coach Bill Campbell. Campbell also mentored Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs. Warren Buffett’s mentor was Benjamin Graham.

What’s my point? Great minds lean on great minds. Great ideas stem not from one person, but the collective knowledge and creativity sparked amongst multiple people. So why wouldn’t you have a mentor or career coach?

Why you need a mentor

Here are the top reasons you need to invest in yourself with a mentor or career coach:

  • Mentors provide experience, information, and knowledge.
  • Mentors provide an outside perspective and let us know where we need improvement.
  • Mentors find ways to stimulate professional and personal growth.
  • Mentors offer encouragement to keep us going.
  • Mentors can be disciplinarians that help you create boundaries that we tend to not set for ourselves.
  • Mentors are a great sounding board and to run ideas by for an honest and unfiltered opinion.
  • Mentors are trusted advisors who advocate for you.
  • Mentors can help you connect to new people and networks to stimulate your growth.
  • Mentors have experiences and insights you can learn from, so you don’t make the same mistakes they have. Or, if you have made the same mistakes, they provide insight into how to get over the hump and back on the horse.

Someone once said to me, “Mark, isn’t having a mentor a sign of weakness?” I was taken aback by this question because the perception of what a mentor does can be misconstrued. A mentor is a benefit – a strength – a priceless commodity. Having a mentor shows you are aware that you alone cannot take on the world. Having a mentor shows you are open to other ideas, perspectives, and approaches in your professional and personal life.

Becoming Coach Zides

Early on in my career, I realized I love to help others advance. Is there self-gratification in it, of course. But there is nothing better than meeting someone early on in their career, or someone transitioning to a different career that wants to learn and grow and watching them act on their own lives.

As a mentor to a handful of millennials and gen-Zers, I take the approach of direct feedback – some may call it tough love. But like the terms says, it’s out of love and my desire to see my mentees grow. I lead by example and connect people with each other for the betterment of my mentees, while keeping in mind the network I have that can also help them grow. It takes a village.

I have even written a book on the advice I give to my mentees, highlighting how to kick off your career, maintain your career, grow, network, and even go off on your own ventures if that’s the end game. I provide support. I believe in not only self-advocacy, but advocating for people I see potential and drive in.

A good mentor possesses the willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise. They are willing to teach what they know and accept the mentee where they currently are in their professional development. We lead by example and demonstrate a positive attitude and act as a positive and influential role model.

How to get a mentor/career coach

Based on your skills, start looking around at your network and community around you. A mentor can come in the form of a family friend or member, past or current coworker or educator, someone in your college alumni network, or someone you have met at a networking or work event.

Mentors do not need to be executives of companies; they can be a few levels above you in their career. The reality is someone closer to your age in the same role who has been successful in their career growth can provide practical and relevant advice. On the other hand, someone twenty or thirty years your senior can provide a wealth of experience over decades of proven success. The goal is to be comfortable communicating with them your wants and needs, while remaining open to constructive feedback.

Remember, sometimes the truth hurts, and it’s up to you if you take it too personally. At the end of the day, when you build a relationship with a mentor or career coach, you are asking them to invest their time into your success. Sometimes the best mentor connects you with another mentor – yes, you can have more than one mentor! Multiple perspectives are only going to make you stronger and will help you learn how to work with different types of people, adjust your communication methods, and think outside the box.

To establish a relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You can ask a person directly, or you can start a conversation that leads to multiple conversations that organically fuses a mentor/mentee relationship. It depends on who you are asking and what you and they are comfortable with. Ask a potential mentor out to coffee to casually discuss work and challenges you are facing. When you do this, you may find they do not have the capacity to be your mentor. Or you may find they are exactly what you need. If you’re going with a more direct approach, be specific with what you are looking for and want out of this relationship – transparency is key. How is your potential mentor going to know the outcomes you want if you do not communicate them?

Always remember, there has to be give and take in the mentor/mentee relationship. If your career coach is going to provide guidance and feedback, self-awareness and personal growth need to be implemented on your end. No one wants to invest their energies into something or someone that is resistant to change.

Are you looking for a career coach or mentor? Mark Zides has decades of proven success helping others grow within their careers and making the right connections. Contact Coach Zides and see what he can do for you.

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