In the past year I have been asked by three Fortune 100 companies to give presentations on mentoring — does that tell you this might be an important topic? Here is the hard truth: your career is your responsibility. We no longer live in a business world of guaranteed employment – at the most, all a company will offer you is “employability” (i.e. training and experience for the next job you move on to). So if you want to move ahead and succeed – you do NOT need a mentor… you need a vast network of “Power Mentors” to help you on your way.
I would like to borrow key ideas from two respected colleagues to describe to you what I feel is the critical path to career success. This first is Tim Sanders who wrote a great little book, Love is the Killer App, in which he said there are three elements to building a successful career:
- Knowledge: You must be bright, sharp, smart, and talented in a skill that is valuable in the market place.
- Network: A lot of the right people need to know how smart and valuable you are (this is your mentoring network!!!)
- Love: You must be a person of love. Of honesty, integrity, and clear values.
If a lot of the right people know you are an honest, talented, and valuable person = you have career security.
The second idea I’d like to lean on is one that is probably well known to you, but not in this context. I am referring to the three-circle “Hedgehog” concept put forth by Jim Collins in his seminal book Good to Great. In this foundational idea, Jim talks about the three things to focus on: core competency + passion + strong economic driver – and that where those three things overlap is the sweet spot on which truly great companies are built. My point: I believe it is exactly the same for building a great career. What are you genetically hardwired to do well, that you love to do and that is very valuable in the market place? Again, I don’t think you can find these on your own, you need mentors to help you here too.
I will finish on what I believe is the most important thing I have ever learned (so far):
You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with.
If that is true – (and I passionately believe it is) you need as many power mentors as you can find!