Find A Mentor
Categories: career development
Your professional development is a career-long project. You should never stop seeking ways to expand and improve your skills. But you also can’t become overwhelmed or impatient with the journey.
I hear a lot about the struggle “to be heard” in an organization. Next-gen and mid-career project managers alike are looking for greater responsibilities and wider opportunities. How do you gain respect, instill trust, and earn recognition?
Well, a great place to start is to find a mentor.
A mentor can help you navigate the corporate culture, understand the bigger picture, and identify actions that will help you establish credibility within your organization.
Where are these mentors? You don’t always know. Start with people you respect and see as role models. Consider individuals who have shown interest in your work, even if it was a small gesture.
You want to find someone who is approachable, but make sure to keep your search open to people with different styles and perspectives so that you can grow and learn new ways of doing and thinking.
Most important, don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is that it’s not the right time or the right connection.
And even without an official mentor, you can still emulate the qualities of people who are succeeding.
But if you do get a “yes”, make sure that you’re already thinking about what you can do for the mentor in return.
So take action! Put together a list of potential mentors within your organization. Consider which ones would be the best fit for you, and why. Your notes might look something like this:
Next, make a plan to approach your top choice. Would an informal conversation in the halls be the best way to keep it light? Or perhaps a more carefully worded email clearly outlining your goals and reasons why you think this person would be a great mentor?
Most important, you’ve taken the initiative, and that’s a major step in itself, in growing as a professional. So make a mentor a key milestone in your most important project—YOU!
One misconception many new project managers bring to their role is a belief (or is it a hope?) that a particular methodology, the latest tool or a popular template will bring them success in their work.
It’s understandable, but it’s a misguided, often doomed way of thinking about your very critical role.
Focusing exclusively on processes or systems is dangerous because it could mean other equally important factors in your project’s success are being relegated to bit players, if not swept off the stage entirely.
The fact is, there will always be plenty of rules and requirements that tell you what to do. The best project managers always allow room for asking why and how.
That’s not to suggest project management fundamentals aren’t important. But once you’ve moved out of the classroom and into the world of personalities and problems, projects quickly become more than budgeting and scheduling.
Methodologies don’t complete projects, teams and individuals do. That’s where leadership skills are so important, and yet they still get labeled as soft—as if the ability to resolve conflicts, influence team members and convince stakeholders isn’t hard!
This kind of leadership requires credibility—along with intuition and decision-making, instinct and risk-taking. These qualities might be considered intangibles, but they can and quite often do make the difference between a project that bogs down as soon as it encounters its first crisis, and a project that nimbly navigates those choppy waters until is delivers as promised.
So that’s why you should make your credibility a priority — and manage it as your most important project of all!