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Stagnating at work? A mentor could help
Preeti Bose
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October 01, 2007

Sheetal Nair* thought she was doing pretty well for a couple of years in her role as an assistant manager in a media house. However, when she failed to make it to the promotion list in her annual appraisal for the second time, she realised she was merely going around in circles rather than progressing in a linear fashion.

"It dawned on me that I needed to understand what exactly was missing and what I should do to be visible to the management. I desperately needed someone senior and established to help me look for a new direction. I am glad we had a really supportive GM who agreed to help me understand my potential and needs that will get me closer to a promotion. I now meet her at least once a month to discuss my course of action."

Well, Sheetal is fortunate that she understood help was required and took timely corrective steps for charting her successful future. What about you?

Mentor? Who?
Interestingly, the concept of mentoring stems from Greek mythology. Mentor was Odysseus's friend and teacher to his son Telemachus. In Homer's Odyssey, Athena, the goddess, assumed the form of Mentor to proffer advice to Odysseus and Telemachus. Since then, the word Mentor has become synonymous with someone who is a wise advisor.

Do you recall any body who has helped you grow in your career? Someone who was the guiding light and cared about your growth and development? Whom you could depend on for good advice? Well, most probably, he/she was playing the role of your mentor. Mentors are usually experts in their field and are enthusiastic about helping others develop their skills and competencies. They are respected, committed seniors who can act as counselors at work or elsewhere. 

Look around your office. Do you see someone successful, someone you respect for their experience and ethics? Would you like to mirror his/her behaviour? Do you like the manner in which he/she conducts himself/herself as a person or professionally? He/she could be your future mentor!

So, what is mentoring?
"Mentoring is a process of a building mutually beneficial partnership to help develop the skills, behaviour and insights to reach the partner's goals, wherein a mentor has no stake in the outcome."

Mentoring is intended to influence you from within, as a person. Mentoring is not about supervising you for a task or coaching you short term for a pending project. It is about working with you on your attitude, potential, beliefs and providing you with a direction in life, either personally or professionally.

Do you need mentoring?
Think you too need a mentor to help you develop? For starters, ask yourself why you feel the need for a senior's help and guidance in helping you find direction.

Some of the most common reasons why people seek out mentors could be a random mix of any of the following.  

How can your organisation benefit from mentoring programmes?
Most organisations use mentoring to make the workplace more productive and employee-friendly. It also helps people connect with each other and form productive relationships at work. Mentoring has also been helpful in increasing employee engagement and bringing down attrition rates.  

"We decided to launch the mentoring programme at Lionbridge to facilitate organisational growth and help both mentors and mentees achieve professional and personal growth as well," says Deepak Deshpande, HR - Head, Lionbridge Technologies Inc. "The programme has helped us speed up the development of future leaders and make people more capable and motivated to manage their own career advancement."

Can I be mentored?
Before you go about trying to gain the benefits mentoring can provide, you need to be willing to:

~ Try harder to identify your goals and expectations 
Learn and grow with definite career goals
Commit to your chosen career and then work on your development/opportunity areas
Explore various options to your problems and take risks
~ Listen to feedback with an open mind
Maintain confidentiality about your mentor's strategies
Respect your mentor's experience and use it for your progress
~ Track you progress continuously and strive hard

All of you out there who want to get into a mentoring relationship to gain definite focus and help progress and grow in your career, fasten your seat belts. Mentoring can help you in your flight to the success zone! To be effective however, you need to be totally committed to the mentoring relationship. Focus on creating effective, honest communication with your mentor. Think about your objectives and goals and remember to track your progress in life.

Determine your learning pattern and a suitable mentor who understands your needs to accelerate your growth trajectory in life and get blazing on the path to success!

*Name changed on request to protect identity

The writer is manager, Training for a US-based MNC. The views expressed in this article are solely her own and not of her organisation.

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