When was the last time something so ground breaking occurred in your life that it changed the course of your career? How long did it take to happen? Did you see it coming? Was it the result of planning and deliberation? Or, did it strike from out of the blue?
Last week, I had the privilege to sit on a panel before a class of Rockhurst University Helzberg School of Management MBA students with three other professionals. One is an entrepreneur, one is in career transition after 28 years leading the HR division of a major company, one is the CIO of a premier entertainment company. The primary topic of the panel was mentorship – we talked about our own mentors, serving as mentors, etc.
One of the students asked us if we could identify specific help or guidance or times that our mentors made a difference in our lives. And, though we come from different backgrounds and disciplines, though we are of varying ages, though we hail from various geographic origins, all of the panelists had at least one thing in common: Each of us could point to moments, very specific moments while engaged with mentors and advisors, that were game changing. In most cases, we didn’t plan for them, we didn’t anticipate a major shift, but we can pinpoint moments in time that were pivotal to our careers.
Just a moment. That’s all it takes. Often, we don’t see it coming, we don’t plan for it, it simply takes place. And, it changes us. The trick is to open our minds to the possibility of these ground shifting moments. To recognize and leverage them when they occur. To do something about them.
In addition to our mentors having an impact on us, we, too, can have an impact on our mentees. My friend and former colleague, Erik, recently shared such a story with me. He said that an interaction he and I had turned out to be one of those moments for him. I was humbled and gratified by Erik’s story — funny thing is, however, as a mentor to him, I did not know or anticipate that my seemingly random email comment would have such an impact on his life. But, that is just what it did… I casually suggested he attend an event. He did. It took him on a geographic trek from Kansas City to Oregon to California to Nevada to Colorado and several other points in between; it also took him on a career journey changing the course of his job, his professional outlook, the very nature of his work.
Throughout my own career, it has been a series of moments… it’s caused me to make career and life altering decisions. I recall specific conversations, where we were sitting, the tone of the discussions. Indeed, I’ve relied on my network or mentors and advisors to offer input, advice and opinions on my direction and approach. It’s thrilling and continuously surprising. Though I haven’t always agreed with the recommendations made by others, I always, always value them and allow the suggestions to factor into my decision-making.
As you think about your own life, your own career, consider the following:
- Seek mentorship. Identify professionals who you can turn to for candid advice, guidance and input – people who you know will look out for your best interests while simultaneously urging you on toward achievement of your goals.
- Open your mind to new possibilities. Be on the lookout for game-changing opportunities. Seize those moments. Make the most of them. They may seem like small shifts at the time – have the vision and presence of mind that they may be turning points in your own history.
- Be a mentor. Anyone who has ever been a mentor knows – you get back much more than you put in to mentoring relationships. Not only will you be in a position to impart wisdom and advice, you, too, will be the recipient of lessons unimagined. Mentorship is mutually beneficial and bi-directional – it becomes a conversational partnership vs. a one-way diatribe.
I’d love to hear from you! Can you identify moments in your career that have been significant or particularly impactful? Please share your stories with me.