Mentors are a key element of successful career development. It is important to align yourself with a strong team of mentors who will help guide you to professional success. They should provide positive encouragement, push you to do your absolute best, introduce you to new networking opportunities, and invest time with you.
We all know the importance of emotional support. Identifying your team of support means that you will have a personal tribe ready to cheer you on when the going gets tough. The IAW Mentor Map is a tool dedicated to building the best community of support for you. At the center of the mentor map is you. We start this exercise by defining your goals for the next 6 to 12 months. Remember, SMART goals are an effective way to get your personal and professional life on track this upcoming year.
After you set your goals, a self-assessment can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
As you make progress toward accomplishing your goals, it is important to be open to feedback. Where will this feedback come from? How often will you solicit feedback? Most companies have formal performance review programs that allow a leadership team to offer feedback on a regular basis. However, you may also want to reach out to colleagues to understand how you are performing. If you are a business owner, your employees and customers may be able to provide feedback.
Developing your skills is another really important element of success, yet so many people do not define learning paths for themselves. Keeping your skills fresh means that you stay competitive in the workplace, are able to stretch your career opportunities, and even open doors to new and better opportunities. IAW members can keep their skills fresh by utilizing LinkedIn Learning at the innovator membership level, attending new webinars, or reviewing the library of business and career-related webinars on our BrightTalk and Podcast.
On the right side of the Mentor Map, we identify three groups of people who will help support you. These are role models, mentors, and sponsors.
- Role models: Who do you look up to and aspire to be like? Follow these people on their social channels. Subscribe to their websites and newsletters. Try to see them speak in person when possible. Learn from them and be inspired!
- Mentors: A mentor can come from within your organization or be outside of it, but they should be somebody who meets the needs we listed at the start of this post. In How to Mentor Fearlessly, we identify how to be a mentor, establish a relationship, and the benefits of mentoring.
- Sponsors: Who advocates for you when you aren’t in the room? Where mentors advise and give you guidance on the next steps, a sponsor will act. Both are needed to leverage and advance career success, but a sponsor will elevate your success by speaking highly of you in “closed-door” meetings. In the workplace, men are known to have twice as many sponsors as women. It is important to understand the difference between the role of a mentor and that of a sponsor and to take the opportunity to act as a sponsor to other women within your organization.
The final step on the mentor map is accountability tracking. Take ownership of your success. Track your progress toward goals and set reminders to check in with your mentors and request feedback from others.
Now that you’ve identified the key components of your success – defining what is important to you, setting clear goals, creating an outline of the individuals who will support you, and defining a process to monitor your accountability – you are better equipped to go out and achieve great things! Looking for a supportive community of like-minded women to help you achieve great things? Join IAW today and take advantage of our member benefits such as networking, weekly events, career fairs, and more!