We can never stress enough the importance of a mentor. Having the guidance from someone with valuable experience will help you make the right decisions so you can accomplish your goals. You don’t want to deny yourself from these opportunities for growth. Your future will without a doubt thank you. Marillyn A. Hewson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin, looks back at her mentored experience as one of the most important turning points in her career. Here are her three tips on finding your own great mentor.
1. Look for mentors all around you
The people who are best positioned to support you are the ones who have been there before. They’ve spent time and energy jumping the hurdles you’re just beginning to tackle. And they’ve learned a lot along the way.
Yet, a mentor doesn’t have to be a seasoned leader, nor do you always need a formal, full-time relationship. People all around you may have valuable input, depending on the issue at hand. Be open to mentoring in the moment, day-by-day. Seek out multiple advisors — anyone from a senior member of your organization to someone just one cubicle over.
One colleague might be great at reviewing your presentation, another might help you prepare for a job interview, and others may coach you on how to manage your time, your team or even a tough client. Building a broad network increases your ability to find the right advisor at the right time.
2. Find a mentor by earning one.
The most rewarding mentoring relationships aren’t assigned to you or required by Human Resources — they’re the ones you earn for yourself.
So don’t approach a mentor expecting him or her to automatically solve all of your problems. Do your part in the relationship. If you’re facing a challenge, draw up a potential solution. Demonstrate your desire to improve. Ask your mentor if you’re on the right track. Listen carefully. Be open to constructive feedback. Ask follow up questions. Although the best mentors offer guidance, encouragement and support, it’s up to you to act on that advice.
Developing these genuine, constructive relationships with people you admire takes work. Yet, when you take initiative and share ideas, leadership will notice. You may even find senior people beginning to mentor you, without you having to ask.
3. Give as much as you receive.
At their best, mentoring relationships are rewarding and beneficial to everyone involved. Just as you may gain knowledge and guidance from a more experienced colleague, a mentor can also grow and develop by virtue of their relationship with you.
The best organizations leverage their diverse and multigenerational workforce, understanding that each individual brings valuable insight and perspective to the table. I know I have learned as much from my mentees as they do from me, and it’s gratifying to watch their careers develop and help them grow professionally.
So, if you’re a mentee, approach the relationship with energy and commitment. Don’t just view the experience as a chance for you to gain; think about how you can be helpful in return. That spirit of reciprocity is something we try to cultivate at Lockheed Martin, where we’re proud to have a culture that encourages mentoring and development at every level, and in all directions. Our employees benefit because they can learn from and lean on one another; and our company benefits because we welcome open dialogues from different perspectives, backgrounds and levels of experience.
Mentoring relationships can challenge and inspire you, and they can help you propel your career. It’s never too soon to start learning from those around you — and great leaders never stop.