We often look to find a mentor from within our company or field. Taking a broader view can unlock a larger, better set of mentors.
There are a number of things that matter when picking a mentor, but one important facet is often overlooked, or rather, viewed too narrowly. When choosing a mentor, it’s generally a good idea to find one more experienced than you; someone further down the path. But what path?
Normally we think of a mentor further along our career path. She may be in a senior role we hope to achieve down the road. Or maybe she’s in a leadership position at your company. Either way she has a seasoned perspective on your path that can be helpful in guiding you.
But what about other paths you might travel? Sure, you plan on going further in your company or industry, but there are other parts to your development which can be found among a broader set of people. Perhaps at this phase in your career you need to work on your leadership or team building skills. There are plenty of great leaders and team builders outside your field. Those are skills not unique to a role, and so your mentor can come from outside your company or industry.
Bruce Wayne had multiple mentors throughout his career.
Maybe (a big maybe) there is something special about leading in your role. You might think, we’re a medical device company, it’s highly regulated, complex, technical, has a long development process, and lives are on the line, it’s not like leading a team at a retail company. First, I’d note there are some leadership principles applicable to all. You can start with those, and then move on to the advanced leadership skills specific to your industry. Even then, you might learn from leaders in aerospace, the military, or the energy industry who share some similar characteristics as the medical device industry.
Perhaps your next skill to develop is common in another industry. If you’re working on building your personal brand, someone in PR or marketing might be a good mentor to help you with this skill. If you’re looking to improve your creativity, an artist, who might feel totally foreign in a corporate office, may be the guide you need.
Often, we look for people older (and presumably wiser). If you want to develop your social media skills over the next year and you’re over forty, guess what, it’s probably someone younger than you you’ll be turning to. (No cap.) In this case they are indeed more experienced and wiser in that skillset.
If you’re looking to improve your creativity, an artist, who might feel totally foreign in a corporate office, may be the guide you need.
Bruce Wayne had multiple mentors throughout his career. One of his first was Harvey Harris, a detective. That makes sense for a caped crusader who came to be known as The Detective. But he learned martial arts from master Chu Chi Li and master Tsunetomo. He learned the art of escape from the likes of Giovanni Zatara and Max Dodge. Frederick Stone taught him demolitions. Bruce Wayne knew that becoming a superhero didn’t mean he could only learn from superheroes.
Throughout our careers we will have multiple mentors. No one mentor is likely to provide you with everything that you need. As you look for a new mentor, remember to cast a wide view as to who it might be. Otherwise, you have a very limited set to choose from. After all, if it was good enough for Batman, it’s certainly good enough for us.
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