Find a mentor…any mentor

201512-mentor-file2471249322549I find meaning in life through my connections with other people.

Connections with family are obvious. They’re profound. They’re ever-present. When I was a kid, it was my parents and my brother. Now, as a grown-up, it’s my wife and son.

But don’t overlook connections at work. When I was in graduate school, I connected personally¬†with my research advisor. In industry, I have been fortunate to work for incredible people. I have personal connections¬†with each of them.

Thinking of the people that have worked for me, I’ve made myself available, to connect as deeply as they’d like.

These kinds of connections can be dangerous. You’re vulnerable. The more you share about yourself, the more other people can take advantage.

That’s the glass half empty point of view. The rewards are tremendous. People are fundamentally good. They want to help. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

What does this have to do with finding a mentor? With mentoring, like with most relationships, you get back what you put into it. You can find someone and connect deeply with them, learning new things about yourself in the process. Or, you can refuse to engage, find a mentor in name only, and check the box.

When you consider a career change, a mentor is crucial. When I was making my career change, I found my mentors through the leadership development program I was in. My mentors were leaders in different parts of the company, people with different backgrounds than my own.

I realized one big advantage for me was that these mentors had no direct professional connection to me. I could be candid with them, and not fear any impact on my day to day work.

While I didn’t have a direct professional connection to them, I did have a connection around aspiration. I wanted to learn more about myself. I wanted to learn more about the company. I wanted to learn more about the different ways I could help the company succeed.

My mentors were similarly motivated. They had their own journeys, their own paths to fulfilling their career ambitions. Fortunately for me, they were willing to share their stories. They were willing to listen to mine.

You don’t need some fancy big wig mentor. Find someone…anyone. Find someone you connect with, or feel like you could potentially connect with.

Find someone that embraces their own vulnerability. You want to tell your story…your whole story. You want to be candid about your strengths and your weaknesses, your wins and your losses. You want to share your ambitions, without worrying about how that makes you look.

With this kind of career change, moving from a technical path to a business path, you’ll encounter plenty of unknowns. While a mentor can’t eliminate all these unknowns, they can help.

Your fears and inhibitions are the biggest obstacle to your career change. Not your skills. Not your experience.

A mentor can help you overcome your fears and inhibitions, or at least disarm them. Your career journey is too important to forgo this kind of relationship.

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