Mentors can make a star shine

·        Do you know how to get promoted in your organization?

·        Do top executives know all about your strengths and abilities?

·        Do you know about reorganizations and other changes in your company before they happen, so you can take advantage of the information?

·        Do you know what political land mines to avoid so your proposals will be accepted?

·        Are you plugged into the corporate strategy?

If you're lucky enough to have a mentor, you may have been able to answer "yes" to many of these questions. If you don't have a mentor, you may be in the dark and that could limit your career opportunities.

So how do you go about getting a mentor? And how will you know one if you see one? Having a mentor is a little like having a big brother or sister who keeps a watchful eye out for you. He or she can be inside your organization or outside but the important thing is the mentor's level of political savvy and the influence and connections they have with others in your field. Mentors are often senior managers, retirees, board members, or other people who have successful careers themselves and what to help others.

Some organizations assign mentors to new employees or student interns but to be most effective, mentors decide to choose you for some special reason. Perhaps you remind them of a younger version of themselves, or their brother or daughter. Maybe you're life circumstances parallel their own. Whatever the reason, the chemistry is right and they take you under their wing.

The reason a mentor chooses to help you is because they see some special talent in you they want to help develop. But their motives aren't always completely altruistic. They know the organization will benefit and they will enhance their own reputation for being smart enough to discover and groom you.

Some mentors choose to stay completely in the background and coach from the sidelines, while others are quite open about their support and don't mind who knows it.

So, how do you find someone who will take you under his or her wing?

·        First, you must be a star performer. No one will be willing to put their own reputation on the line for you unless you can dazzle them once they nudge you into the spotlight.

·        Get involved in company-wide efforts such as picnics, volunteer committees, sports clubs, anything that will allow you to get to know people across the company. Even if you never do find a mentor, the contacts you make will serve the same purpose.

·        Make it a point to get to know the backgrounds of people you admire and find things in common between the two of you. Honest admiration is very flattering if it isn't poured on thick. Introduce yourself, ask them to lunch and ask for their advice and opinion about something they could help you with. Be open to their coaching and follow up with them on how their advice worked.

·        Offer something in return for their help. Perhaps you can assist them with a personal or professional problem they've been having. Use your expertise to help them any way you can. One young man developed a great relationship with a senior manager after spending some time helping the executive learn how to use his new computer.

And on the flip side, if you're a senior manager or professional, consider helping someone else achieve their potential. The satisfaction will be rich indeed.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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