Article by Ruth Gotian
It is well documented that those who are mentored outperform and out-earn those who are not. They get promoted more often and report lower burnout rates. However, having just one mentor is limiting. Having a team of mentors puts you in the driver’s seat. It is essential to have your personal mentoring team. This collective, which has your best interest at heart has to be selected carefully.
A mentoring team offers a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, skills, and social capital. The more diverse your team, the greater your reach and potential. I always encourage my clients to curate mentors from a diversity of industries and geography in order to learn and appreciate new ways of thinking and approaches to problems. Don’t limit yourself to one industry or organization. Think globally. To truly get a wide array of outlooks, make sure your mentoring team doesn’t all look like you. Aim for a cross-section of genders and ethnicities. My team of mentors includes people from a wide range of industries including medicine, science, education, law, and military. I’ve learned countless tips from each one of my mentors and have grown my network exponentially. My mentors led me to publish in major journals, taught me how to develop mentoring circles in my organization, and how to get face time with key people when traveling to their institution. You are the common denominator among your team. While you can reach out to any and all members on the team, they don’t all need to meet together.
But how do you identify who should be on your team? A simple five-step process can help you identify who can help guide your career and serve on your Targeted Mentoring Team.
Step 1: Name your goal
What is your immediate goal? Is it to get promoted to vice president or associate professor? It’s important to identify and label your attainable short-term goal. Knowing what you want to achieve and where you want to go will help dictate the path you should follow. The reason for not choosing a long-term goal at this point is that as you develop new experiences and skills, you might find your long-term goals change.
Step 2: Identify your plan
French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” Naming your goal is a critical first step. To prevent your goal from becoming a fantasy, identify what you need to do in the short term to achieve your goal. Do you need to land a big account or publish more articles? Be very specific about what the next steps are.
Once you have these steps identified, you can start building your mentoring team. This is the group of people who will help you actualize your plan, provide insight, and connect you with the right people. You are developing your Targeted Mentoring Team. Envision a bullseye, with a total of three circles, one inside the other.
Step 3: Your inner circle
List the names of people who know you best. They know you when you’re tired, hungry, and maybe even cranky. They could be your partner, family, closest friends, maybe even your children. These people, even if they are not in your industry, will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. They know the ‘personal’ you.
Step 4: Your middle circle
This circle, right outside your inner circle, includes your closest work colleagues. They’ve seen you under the pressure of a deadline, crises, or being understaffed. They are attuned to your work ethic and reputation. These people might be senior or junior to you or right at your level. They know the ‘professional’ you.
Step 5: Your outer circle
This is the circle that will take the most work. It includes acquaintances and people who work in or outside your field. You may not know them directly, but you know of them. They may include people you have heard speak and those whose work, position, or reputation you admire. They don’t need to be in your immediate industry. If you are having trouble with negotiations, having a master negotiator on your team, from any industry is paramount. These potential mentors can be approached remotely.
This list might need to be tweaked a bit, but the bones are there for you to work with. Start with the inner circle and work your way out. Tell people what your goal and plan is. Mentors will emerge with guidance and connections to their network. Build on that. Ask for introductions to your outer circle if need be.
The circles are permeable. Being a mentor is not a life sentence. Add and remove names of potential mentors as the needs arise and your circumstances change. Before long, those in the outer circle will move toward the middle circle and new names will be added to the outer layer as you advance. Your mentoring team, if chosen carefully, will help you ascend and achieve your goal.