Great mentors have had an invaluable impact on my career success to date. These mentors have not only taught me about what is important (both personally and professionally); they have also provided meaningful opportunities for growth.
The value of the mentor/mentee relationship has had an invaluable impact on me throughout my career. I know that I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it weren’t for the impact and guidance of my mentors. Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned about mentorship that I think can help anyone find career success.
Don’t be afraid to seek out mentorship
If I could give young professionals one piece of advice, it would be to ask someone to mentor them. Mentors aren’t going to go out of their way to drag someone along if they don’t show initiative. It can take time to find the right fit for both parties, but it is well worth the effort.
When seeking someone to advise and support you as you progress in your career, it can be difficult to know where to start. You may have a thousand LinkedIn connections, but they are all former college classmates at a similar stage in their career. If you can’t find a natural fit in your current pool of contacts, start researching companies you admire and reach out to those whose career paths most closely mirror the one you’d like to follow. You will be surprised how many cold calls and emails will get warm replies when all you’re asking for is advice.
Learn to recognize the accelerators in your life
My first job right out of college was an internship at a real estate investment trust by the name of Cole Capital. It was an interesting place to work, but my role was of no particular importance. Still, I was thrilled to have the opportunity and put an insane amount of effort into even the most menial of tasks. This behavior caught the attention of the CEO’s personal assistant, who went out of her way to connect me with him. This was a huge opportunity, but one that could have easily been overlooked.
Fortunately, I recognized the favor she was doing for me and I ended up developing a very close relationship with the CEO, Christopher Cole. Mr. Cole was the first major accelerator in my career, quickly introducing me to the world of entrepreneurship, writing, and executive management. His impact on the trajectory of my life cannot be overstated, and I continue to owe him a great debt of gratitude to this day.
Remember that mentorship is a two-way street
The mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street—you have to deliver tremendous value to your mentor as well, and that often means taking on more tasks than those around you or working around their schedule so you can find time to meet.
This lesson came into play with the second major accelerator and mentor in my life, my cofounder at BodeTree, Matt Ankrum. Matt hired me to work on his strategy team at Apollo Group after an extensive search process. I really wanted the job, and committed to outworking everyone in order to get it. I went out of my way to develop a strong strategy proposal for the team, going so far as to have it professionally designed and printed. While this may seem like a trivial thing, it helped me to stand out among other, better qualified candidates. It also proved to Matt that I was dedicated to delivering exceptional value to him and the rest of the team.
This attitude continued after I was hired, and I made a point to work harder and longer than anyone in order to make the team more successful. Towards the end of our tenure at Apollo, Matt managed to coax the initial concept for BodeTree out of me. Much to my surprise, he not only was supportive of the idea; he wanted to be part of it. He took a huge risk on his young employee because he believed in the vision and passion that I brought to the table. Had I failed to work hard for him and prove my dedication, BodeTree would never have been born. Nearly everything that has led me to this point in my life is a direct result of working to provide tremendous value to my mentors.
I firmly believe that mentorship is the best path to career success, hands down. The benefits that you can gain from a good mentor relationship can outweigh grad school, natural ability, and even dumb luck. The key is to have the foresight and humility to ask to be mentored. If you start there, you’ll find that there are plenty of accelerators in your life who can add value. More importantly, you can take it upon yourself to add tremendous value for them. In doing so, you’ll ensure that you get the most out of the mentor relationship and find success in your life and career.
This article first appeared in Forbes here.