You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “You need a mentor.” But that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Whether you’re on the hunt for a new job, just starting your career, or even a tenured professional, mentors are like secret weapons for your career. I know firsthand how beneficial a mentor can be. I attribute much of my success as a business founder to my mentor, who I worked for in the early stages of my career. But I also know that not everyone is lucky enough to be dealt an awesome mentor.
Maybe you work under a manager who’s too swamped to offer guidance, or your workplace lacks a formal mentorship program. Regardless, it’s completely possible to initiate a level of leadership to gain your own mentorship perspective and even benefit your coworkers in the process.
Here are a few ways to become your own mentor in the workplace:
1. Stop, look, and listen. Upping your leadership ante at work starts with keying in on your surroundings. Before you can begin assessing yourself, setting goals, and seeking out feedback, you must spend time taking notes about what’s going on at your workplace. Watch how your coworkers and team members function, take note of repeat concerns and questions, and evaluate how your company meets its organizational goals and vision.
2. Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Mentors often help you tune into your gifts and shortcomings. But with a bit of keen evaluation and an eye for improvement, you can do the same on your own. Break down your day-to-day experiences, career accomplishments, and most importantly, your challenges.
Are you really as detail-oriented as you think you are? What about your technical skills—could you finetune to improve your career in the long run? Ensure you’re constantly working on improving your weak spots, and don’t let your ego go to your head in regard to your strengths.
3. Push yourself to new levels. Who says you need to have a formal mentor at work to help you achieve more? Light your own fire. This could be as simple as inspiring yourself by following the work other experts within your industry are accomplishing or even setting a new level of competition for your daily tasks.
4. Reward yourself. When was the last time you stopped to pat yourself on the back? Whether your achievements are big or small, there’s no sense in waiting around for others to recognize and reward your efforts. Make a point to treat yourself when you’ve accomplished a personal goal at work or in your career as a whole. Go see a movie, buy yourself something nice, take a day off, or grab a drink with a friend.
5. Never stop asking questions. A great way to get around a manager who isn’t exactly a mentor is to tap into a more inquisitive nature. This also works on your coworkers. Gain some beneficial insight by asking others about their careers, where they’ve been, what they hope to do and the lessons they’ve learned. Everyone has something to offer in terms of advice, even if they don’t realize it.
6. Constantly seek out forms of professional development. A mentor is just one aspect of continued learning. But by attending company training sessions, conferences, and watching webinars geared toward your field, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the pack on your own. Continuing your development and education may even allow you to lend your newfound knowledge and skills to others within your company.
7. Help others whenever possible. Kicking your leadership potential into full gear means lending a hand or valuable advice to a coworker in need. You may end up working later or taking part in a project that doesn’t necessarily benefit you personally, but you will be creating a beneficial co-working relationship and may even learn a thing or two from the experience.
8. Change how you seek out advice. Thanks to the digital landscape, you don’t always need to ask someone directly for advice. If there’s something you need guidance with, a quick scan of your favorite blog or a tweet from an expert might do the trick. Or, introduce yourself to individuals virtually by way of LinkedIn or other professional platforms. In the digital age, many professionals are open to meeting and helping young careerists this way.
9. Be a mentor. You may not have a mentor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take on a mentee. You may consider offering to act as a mentor for an intern at your company or get in touch with a local university where tons of students are seeking mentorship to kickstart their careers. See if a former professor will be open to having you speak in their class about graduation and starting your career.
Don’t let the lack of a formal mentorship program in your workplace hold you back from advancing your career. A little bit of smart leadership can go a long way, and even impact your coworkers. Remember, just because you don’t have a mentor at work, it doesn’t mean you can’t have one outside of the workplace.
Do you have a mentor?
Ilya Pozin is a father, husband, and founder of Open Me, a social greeting card company. Named one of Inc.’s ‘30 Under 30’ entrepreneurs, he’s made a career as a mentor, investor, and workplace productivity and leadership enthusiast. You can keep up with Ilya on Twitter.