The key to crafting a successful
relationship with a professional mentor
is to look outside the box and identify
individuals who can offer the best
Not Every Mentor is Obvious
A mentor is someone who watches out
for you and gives you advice. Unlike a
“forced” relationship between a boss and
subordinates, or a contract relationship
between a coach/teacher and students,
the relationship between a mentor and a
mentee is often informal.
In fact, some don’t wear a hat titled
“mentor” and they may not be older
than you or senior in professional
ranking. You may not even realize
someone is playing a mentor role in
your life or career until much later.
There’s a tendency to determine the
value of advice based on who it came
from. When you receive guidance
from someone that you regard as your
superior—someone with an impressive
title—you’re more likely give their advice
more weight and take it more seriously.
But sometimes, the most insightful
advice can come from someone among
your peers, an outsider or even someone
you considered less knowledgeable than
you. Sometimes the most innovative
idea may come from a novice in the
field. For a senior manager, you may find
the best perspectives come from your
subordinates or people of the lowest
rank in your business.
Have you noticed mentors in your life
or in your career? Do not dismiss advice
from someone you had underestimated.
Keep an open mind and a humble
attitude. After all, your best mentors
could be anywhere.
Learn to Ask for Help
Now that you know how to discover
your mentors, you need to learn when
to seek their help. There is tremendous
value in self-teaching, learning through
practice and learning through mistakes.
But it is important to recognize
when to seek out help. Some skills
can only be accumulated over time,
but others are a matter of knowledge
and experience. There is no need to
reinvent every wheel. Human progress
is made on the foundation laid by
previous generations. You reach further
by standing at a higher ground to start
with, so it is important to recognize
when to ask for help.
Asking for help where it matters is a
sign of strength, instead of weakness.
Getting the right help at a certain
point could be the difference between
missed opportunities or gaining fast
momentum early so you’re at the right
place at the right time.
Get the Most Out of a
Since mentors are not “obligated” to
you, you have to work extremely hard
and be driven and passionate so as to
attract their attention and to deserve
their time and effort. The reward for
the mentor is not money or promotions
at work, but seeing the result and
seeing how they can make a difference
in your progress.
To get the best out of a mentoring
or coaching relationship, you first
need to know how to listen to advice.
Like in all communication, effective
listening requires you to give up any
prejudgment of what you hear. The
most damaging prejudgment is not
about deciding if the advice is right or
wrong, but telling yourself, “I know
this already.” When you think that, you
quickly determine that the advice—
though valid—is of no new value.
Often, when great advice motivates
you to take the right action, it is not
because it is new advice. You may
have heard it many times before.
But sometimes following that advice
Become Your Own Motivator
worked only when it clicked with you,
when you really listened and when you
were more capable of understanding
the advice. Listen to every piece of
familiar advice like it is new. Instead of
thinking “I know,” ask yourself if you’ve
mastered it and if you’ve seen results. If
the answer is no, make a plan and take
Shortening your learning path is
normally the reason to seek out a
mentor in the first place. The most
important role a mentor can play is in
motivating you to reach higher goals
that you might have thought impossible
when you first sought help.
It is also important not to rely on
professional help as a crutch forever.
The goal of seeking professional help
is to shorten your learning path and to
become independent and competent
faster. When you are on the real
battlefield, no one can do your work
for you. You have to do it for yourself
and you cannot go far if you have to
rely solely on external motivation.
Ultimately, you have to learn to be your
Seeking help and finding mentors is an
important strategy for getting where
you want to go in your career. Learning
to listen to advice and keeping an open
mind to recognize those around you
who can serve the role of mentor will
broaden the opportunities you have
for learning. While self-teaching is an
important practice and can go a long
way to helping you learn basic skills,
coaches will know what you need and
how to help you reach those goals. J
Lei Wang is an internationally-recognized adventurer,
motivational speaker and author of After the Summit:
New Rules for Reaching Your Peak Potential in Your
Career and Life. For more information about Lei Wang,
please visit www.Journey WithLei.com.