Back when I started my career in higher education, I didn’t think about having a mentor, coach, mastermind, etc. They were not the rage like they are today!
Looking back, I did have those people interspersed in my work life who guided me to better decision-making, goal-setting and life-balance. Probably the most profound influencer for me was the founding board chair of the foundation that I helped launch. It just happened. He started meeting with me monthly on board-related issues because of his position as board chair, but I found myself reaching out to him for questions related to staff, donors, leadership, etc. He was always available for me and became my sounding board and someone I trusted greatly.
Many times, mentors just appear out of nowhere. But also they are people you observe and seek out. They are individuals whose opinion you value, with whom you have a good rapport and whose principles align with yours.
I think we should at all times have a group of people (mastermind), several people (mentors) or one person (a coach) who is helping us grow professionally which advantageously spills into growing personally.
If you don’t have people or a person who you use as a sounding board, I would recommend several things. First, think of people you associate with now, who you have watched from afar or someone recommended to you. Second, reach out to them to have a cup of coffee, and seek their opinion about an idea or project you are launching. You may form a mentor-type relationship. Keep doing this until you find a person or two who you value and trust.
I never saw myself as a mentor or coach. Then, it occurred to me one day that I had enough experience and knowledge that I should be sharing and guiding staff and others on their career journey. I watched a colleague do this. Before I left my last position as executive director of the foundation, I began easing into being more intentional in how I supported staff and others in my community with less experience.
I now coach for a living. It is my favorite part of being a consultant. I enjoy problem solving, strategizing and seeing an executive director push through an obstacle that has been a barrier to success. It is gratifying for me to be helping nonprofit leaders raise more money to serve more people.
Who is guiding you in your career journey?