Why We Need A Mentor.

May 29th, 2011 | By | Category: Career advice

There is not a lot of difference among us. Overall, we are all pretty much average. So what is the difference that enables a few to become super successful, while the rest of us stay in the range of mediocrity?

It is true that the higher you start on the ladder the easier it is to get to the top. There are several family dynasties where the children follow in the footsteps of their patents with well-defined career paths that almost guarantee success. Look at any list of the richest people, and at least half will be from already rich families. ranker.com Are they any smarter than you? Probably not, they just have rich parents.

The second highest group of the super rich is made up of young entrepreneurs; those who start their own businesses, and fill a gap in the demand and supply chain. (retire at 21) The majority of these super rich start businesses that are on the leading edge of social change. Currently in the US, the Internet and computer applications like Google and Facebook are rewarding their founders with an abundance of wealth. In looking at the backgrounds of these young superstars, they seem to come from upper middle class families. Where they had some advantages not available to the rest of us. Most attended Ivy League schools, and again had parents who could help them along the way. This does not diminish their achievements, but does illustrate the importance of monetary, social, and educational support in achieving success.

The third group is comprised of celebrities, entertainers and sports figures. forbes.com Its members are the most diverse in backgrounds. This is highly competitive group who work hard at their careers, and depend a lot on luck to achieve stardom. Although talent and drive are the main ingredients for their success, it is usually the interest of someone who can promote their careers that carries them to the top. For example, look at the number of people who owe their success to Oprah. This is the group where average people make their way forward, and the importance of mentor starts to become evident.

Since most of us are average we are starting more or less from the same place. With average intelligence we can get through high school and have the ability to get through college if we put our minds to it. In this age of mass communications, we all have the same sources of information available to us, and we are free to pursue our own interests. The difference, which starts separating us as achievers and average, begins early on. The more we are encouraged to do, the more we achieve. This is a form of mentoring. Unconsciously we garner mentoring and encouragement from all sources in our social environment. The more we are exposed to the more knowledge and experience we have to draw on.

In my opinion, this is where the educational system fails the students. Although very efficient at teaching the rudimentary subjects, schools do very little to acquaint students with the career opportunities that are available to them. Left on their own, most follow in the footsteps of what they know or the easiest path, instead of being encouraged to reach beyond their current environment. For example, when I went was growing up, the high school had two basic tracts – general and academic. The general students were taught the basics, while the academic students were in college prep. Most of the general tract student’s parents were mill workers, while most the academic student’s were business owners and professionals (doctors, dentists, accountants, etc.) Once locked into a tract it was difficult to change, and those in the general tract would have a very difficult time getting accepted into college. The few mill workers’ children who were in the academic tract had a strong influence from their parents, teachers, bosses, etc. – mentors – encouraging and guiding them. Very few of my general tract classmates ever went to college.

Once we enter the workforce we are pretty much on our own. There is no curriculum to guide us. Who do you ask for help? If you have followed in your parents’ footsteps, they are still able to give sound career advice as you progress in your career. Also professionals usually have a network of acquaintances in various career fields who can lend a friendly helping hand in a managing a friend’s child’s career. On the other hand, most of us are left on own, with no clue of what to do next. College gives some basic knowledge in a variety of subjects, but how to succeed isn’t one of them. Most of just watch a successful peer and copy. The problem is that most successful peers have an invisible helping hand. – A mentor.

It boggled my mind. No matter, matter what I did; I just couldn’t seem to make any progress in my career. Though I volunteer for special assignments, the same people got selected again and again. My end of the year reviews were good, but never outstanding. When I asked for advice on how to improve, I was told to just keep up the good work. It soon became evident I was locked in the “general tract” just like high school. If I stayed there I knew there was little chance of beyond worker bee status. I floundered for several years. That is when I began to become interested in career strategies, workplace psychology, the traits and personalities of successful people. I read everything I could find. It took me a while, but like most who study a topic long enough they have that epiphany of what they were looking for. In my case, what came to light was something that I had known all along. That other people were the key to success. Quite simply – You cannot earn a promotion; someone has to give it to you. Sure you do the work and jump through the hoops, but in the end it is someone else who decides who gets promoted. Now the trick is to figure out how to convince people to help you. You can learn this by trial and error, which the way most of us approach it. Or you can find a mentor who has traveled a similar path and knows what works and what doesn’t. Since most of us were raised to be self reliant, this seems like a sell out – its not.

Look at any one who is at the top of their game, and you will usually find a support staff. CEOs, politicians, athletes, entertainers, … all have people helping them, so why not you. You do not need to remain average, but you do need mentors.

The PracticaL Mentor

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