I have benefitted greatly from two mentors at key points in my career. One came when I was just starting and helped me shortcut a lot of mistakes that I probably would have made on my own and to mature quickly.
The second came at that key early-mid career time, when I was in my late thirties. He was an executive who trusted, and forced, me to take on subjects and scale that I wasn’t sure I was ready for. In addition to forcing me to grow, he taught me a ton about leadership and how to think strategically. He also introduced me to project management.
That’s why I believe that having a mentor is one of the three critical professional relationships. I don’t work for that executive any longer, but we stay in regular contact. In fact, we’re having breakfast this morning. He’s someone that I trust and can go to for professional advice and honest feedback.
The second key relationship is one that I haven’t been as successful at building yet. That is being a mentor to someone. Paying forward the benefits that I reaped from the investment and generosity of my mentors.
Where the mentor / mentee relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be between people who work together, I believe the third critical relationship does. That is a peer relationship based on mutual trust, friendship and honesty. Someone that you can go to for advice or just to vent, and who will give you honest feedback, including telling you when you need to get your head screwed back on straight. Someone that you will do the same for in return.
If you are able to foster these three professional relationships, you’ll not only be fortunate, but you’ll be in a great position to be fulfilled and successful in your career.