Originally published September 5, 2017 on The Daily Positive as How to identify the right mentor by Jon Isaacson.
Successful professionals understand the importance of learning the hard skills of their chosen craft. But when it comes to management skills, the value of mentorship is often forgotten. Mentoring is a relationship of purpose wherein Professional A enlists Professional B to assist in his personal and/or professional development. Mentorship is broad and unique to the various industries and stages of professional development.
If mentorship were an actual ship, what would that sea craft look like and how can individuals apply this to their search for the right mentor?
Do you need a tugboat?
The tugboat maneuvers vessels by pushing or pulling them. What are the features that the mentee is looking for? The mentee needs someone strong, behind the scenes, understated, and always reliable. A tugboat mentor proves that not all mentors look the same or fit the archetype of the mentorship romance narratives. A mentor who serves like a tug boat will assist those vessels that are unable to propel themselves, whether temporarily due to being disabled by damage or as an assistant for those vessels that are in narrow waters and need assistance with navigation while in a tight spot.
“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!’” — Jim Rohn
Mentors who specialize in categories of business or management skills can be a vital boost to your advancement as professional. A tugboat relationship may be short in duration or enlisted only when certain circumstances require an extra push. Tugboat mentors are available on call or at scheduled intervals, but they know the boundaries of how engaged to be to assist the mentee in building his own success. Tugboat mentorships are often the least expensive, least involved, and serve for specific durations.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a tugboat mentor: look for quiet strength, don’t overlook professionals who have experience but may not fit preconceived notions, confront whether your current needs are to be pushed or pulled.
Do you need a freighter?
Cargo ships are designed to carry heavy loads from point A to point B. Freighters are equipped for types of cargo, course parameters, and journey duration. The mentee needs someone who can assist with carrying a current project through to its vision destination. Mentors who serve in a cargo capacity may have more than one mentee who they are working with; they may not provide the highest level of individualized care, but they will help carry the process through to completion.
Freighter may be the most common mentorship scenario, as most professionals don’t seek out this level of transparency or assistance until they are faced with an opportunity that is too heavy, too complicated, or stretches them further than they have traveled in their career.
“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” — Junot Diaz
Driven people understand that there are mental road blocks on the way to professional development. Seeking the support of another professional to assist in navigation may be the key to breaking through. A freighter relationship may be a longer duration than the tugboat mentor and yet more utilitarian as the parameters of the interaction are tied to objectives. Mentees who have a clearer understanding of what they need are better able to map out and communicate their needs in an agreement between both mentorship parties.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a freighter mentor: try to determine whether your current need is load specific to a type of heavy burden, experiential in nature to a path that must be traveled, or mission-centric.
Do you need an aircraft carrier?
Aircraft carriers are some of the most expensive ships in the sea, but they are also fitted with the best in technology for intelligence, offense, and defense. As a mentee who is in need of vision, organization, equipment, and support, the aircraft carrier can provide it all, including the ability to send resources to salvage if the mission has crashed and burned. Mentors who work in an aircraft carrier capacity may be utilitarian in providing insights into vision charting, course preparation, or operational assistance, or they may be ordered to intercede in a specific mission.
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell
As an aspiring professional, it is important to keep yourself personally and professionally challenged. The value of this can be multiplied by identifying a suitable mentor who will assist you to navigate the most complex systems of interpersonal relationships within leadership roles. The mentee who understands her needs and has the resources can call upon an aircraft carrier mentor to provide mission assistance, whereas the mentee who lacks clarity may call upon the intelligence and support capacities of her carrier mentor.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a carrier mentor: know thyself, and understand where you are and where you are going. With a firm sense of those two items, identifying a mentor who has mastered the skills you are working on will be much more evident.
Professional athletes have coaches and trainers even though they are at the very height of their professional skills, earning, and influence. Seeking the assistance of someone who can assist you to tug, carry, or chart your way through the murky waters of personal development can be a very positive and fulfilling addition to your professional adventure.
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Roll call of our interview posse includes this fun group of creative humans:
Are you in a personal funk and aren't sure how to dig your way out of it? Try service.
Serving other's has the power to wrangle your negative attention on your own problems and redirect that energy into something positive as you help another human being. Understanding that other's need your help can break a mental storm, restore a sense of purpose and put your body in motion that lubricates your own motivation to get back on track with the forward march of your life goals. Connecting with others through service can be a powerful resource in your personal development.
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Ghandi
Are you in a professional rut and struggling to gain momentum? Try service.
As John C. Maxwell discusses in his book The 360 Leader, your ability to lead is not inhibited by your current position, you can lead from anywhere in the company. If you are not sure where to start, look to see how you can invest in those in your charge, seek out a peer whom you an assist with a project or listen for an opportunity to take a weight from your supervisor. Assisting co-workers with development, peers with progress and supervisors with optimization builds value for yourself, team members and for the organization. Collaborating with others through service can be a powerful resource in your professional development.
“Leadership is more disposition than position—influence others from wherever you are.” - John C. Maxwell
Looking beyond yourself may be the best means to get our of your own head as well as out of your own way.
Connecting with others can broaden your perspective as well as expand your opportunities. Collaboration with others strengthens all parties involved and builds valuable networks for mutual advancement. Connect and collaborate so that you can conquer your setbacks by investing in others. Connecting over shared values and collaborating for creative solutions also creates accountability for yourself as well as your community.
See our prior article HERE on family service for creative ideas on how to teach these principles at home. SHARE your experiences with breaking the funk, getting out the rut and serving others with us.
If this article from IZ Ventures has not helped you with creative solutions, this video on Sally the Secretary from IZ Media may be of value:
My kids ask about the olden days, "You know, like back in the 1900's." There are moment as we laugh that we realize there are reference points and resources which they will have no frame work to comprehend. One such resource that we used in the days long before was the Thomas Guide, do you remember these? We tale for granted that you now can instantaneous directions that are interactive and will talk you through the intricacies of your journey. In the days before cell phones and data applications were a ubiquitous accessory, you used to have to sit down at your computer to print your directions from programs such as Mapquest. People complain that Siri get's them lost, those same people should force themselves to navigate with line item directions while traversing through rush hour traffic.
Prior to the Thomas Guide, there were maps. Maps were created as a by product of natural selection in an effort to thin the population either by getting them lost where they could not be found, distracted from driving or to tear families apart arguing over which minuscule turn off was the shortest route. Maps were sold in a compact folded form that you could never get them back into without tearing or throwing into the glove box in a condition twice the purchased size. Imagine driving with a fold out that could fill the drivers compartment trying to read size 6 font in the dark to reach your destination - it makes it rather comical that some crusaders believe cell phones are the first and/or only incarnation of distracted driving. Imagine family trips with no seat belts, no air conditioning and navigating from parchment paper.
Needless to say, when the Thomas Guide came out, the world of travel for business and for pleasure became so much more compact and concise. The Thomas Guide had a reference index, you would look up your street and be provided an page as well as index from which you could begin to construct your routes. As crazy as it sounds, in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, California, with the Thomas Guide you could more readily re-navigate when there were traffic jams because you could focus in on the area you were headed to rather than having to mess with a the jumbled monstrosity of a large paper map. The world was still un-chartered waters but the Thomas Guide made you feel like you could master the seas, or at least not get so lost that you would be left to die in the expanse with your only friend being a volleyball.
Where are we going with this? First, I wanted to share a story about the Thomas Guide with you young-ins who have never heard of such a thing. Secondly, navigation is an essential component of exploration as it relates to achieving your personal and professional goals. Technology has advanced and you may be able to master the latest and greatest electronic gadgets but that doesn't mean you understand how to navigate your journey, connect with the best resources or conquer your ambitions. Mentorship is a catch phrase in the current economy and yet connecting the pieces is harder than it sounds even though we have so many collaboration opportunities. As discussed previously, discussion among peers can be a powerful resource (HERE), like a planned summer vacation the search for ideas and tips can start with sharing with others where you want to visit, what you hope to see as well as asking if others have been where you are trying to go. If you have been frustrated in your search for mentorship - 1) you are not alone, 2) don't give up as it is a worthwhile pursuit and 3) don't discount the network that you have that can help keep you accountable to your vision (The Power of Discussion). Another great place to start is Write It Down.
Let us know what you have learned about navigation and mentorship. Connect. Collaborate. Conquer.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.