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Everyone Needs a Career Mentor, Like Kevin was to Me

January 28, 2016

When I was a Freshman in college I landed my first internship. It was with a small organization, but I was doing work I was passionate about learning from a guy who I greatly respected.

I’d known Kevin for a couple years prior to my internship beginning. He was in his mid-thirties with a young family and a massive amount of talent. He made juggling a family and a successful career look easy. Not to mention he commanded respect in every conversation due to a broad knowledge base across a multitude of topics (This is not a lie, I once heard him riff on the properties of the chewy substance in a Payday bar for 20 minutes with ease).

Even in my not so fully formed post high school mind I understood this man had chutzpah.

Over the next 2 years I soaked in every bit of Kevin I could. I learned his mannerisms, unique colloquialisms, and his unfiltered view of life.

Everyone needs a career Kevin.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this one man and the two years interning with him, are largely responsible for the successes I’ve achieved in my career (which is over a decade in the making).

So how do you find a mentor who helps advance your career?

 

You Never Know Where You’ll Meet Them

I met Kevin through a ski trip at the lake.

You never where you’re going to meet your career mentor.

The reality is you will never find someone you respect if you aren’t engaging with people from the community. Whether it’s your religious community, your parents friends, or through some other avenue.

I came to respect Kevin by watching him interact with people over and over again. It took time for me to believe he was worth learning from. Don’t rush into a mentor/mentee relationship. I’ve seen people shipwreck their careers and their lives based on bad advice from poor advisors.

Annoyingly Ask Questions

Once you find your career mentor be persistent to soak up all of their wisdom. Anytime that Kevin had a major conversation with someone in the organization I asked him how he did it. Every time Kevin promoted a major shift in what we were doing as an organization, I wanted to know how he did it.

I’m positive I annoyed him on a number of occasions by asking him so many questions about seemingly innocuous happenings.

The result of all those questions though?

I learned how to think.

There was no magic formula to his method which could be duplicated for years to come.

My ability to critically evaluate ideas has proved to be the most vital skill set I learned in my time with Kevin. Honestly, it’s the most valuable thing I learned over the two year time period.

Observe the Small Stuff

I watched how he worked everyday. I made sure to pick up how he handled his staff members, his expense reports, and the people who really didn’t appear to matter in his life or career.

If you know Kevin you’ll find that I’ve obtained eerily similar habits in the office. From the way I take notes, to the way I present information, or the way I throw out ideas in a staff meeting.

I’ve figured out there are dozens of things I do because I watched Kevin do them well.

They’re Your Cheerleader

Whenever you’re applying for any job they always ask for a reference if they’re serious about hiring you. Anytime you have a career mentor you’ve got an ace up your sleeve. He was my supervisor for a while, but he’s also currently my biggest cheerleader.

He doesn’t just want me to do well in my next hire, but my entire career.

In the world of business it’s rare to find someone who is truly for you.

Most people think they’ve got it figured out. Most people don’t search for a mentor in their career because the process might be messy or awkward.

Most people hate their jobs. Most people never achieve the level of success they are capable of reaching.

Don’t be most people! Find a mentor, soak up their wisdom and insight, and then implement what you’ve learned. You’ll find it’s amazing to be unlike ‘most people.’

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