I had a meeting recently with someone about the direction of my career. You know how those end of the year discussions go. You spend time reflecting on what went well, what you can do better and how you plan to take the New Year by storm. As we were talking, I began to reflect on those people who had been instrumental in my development and somehow we identified 5 people that were pivotal to my success in 2017. I wanted to share a recap of those folks with you and how you may find them useful in 2018.
I won’t spend much time here because everyone is familiar with this person. You’ve learned lots about finding a mentor, etc. This is the person who does my job better than me. They could also be the person with the capabilities to reel me in and pull my coattail when needed. They provide the feedback- good, bad or indifferent. If you are anything like me, you likely compartmentalize and have multiple mentors. That’s fine too. However, it’s very important that as a professional mentor, this person is someone you can confide in about your professional goals and will help steer you in the right direction.
A mentor is great. A sponsor is just as valuable. The sponsor is someone who is likely doing your next job and will help in getting you there. They are also the person who is willing to lay their name on the line in support of your career development.
In a previous role, I was a Senior Recruiter. I knew that I ultimately wanted to transition into a HR Business Partner Role. This was my dream job. As a recruiter, I met Stephanie. She was a successful, well respected and well-rounded Business Partner. One day, I walked into her office and said “Stephanie, tell me all your business, how did you grow into this role. I want to know it all”. It was my way of breaking the ice but too my surprise, she told me. As time went on, we begin to problem solve together, I got a closer view of the role. That exposure solidified my interest. When a HR Business role became available… guess who referred me? You guessed right! Stephanie- The well-rounded, well respected business partner. She had spent enough time with me at this point to determine if I would be a good fit for the role. I had also spent enough time with her to learn the core competencies a successful HR Business Partner would require. Luckily for me, they have helped me to make tremendous strides in my new role as a Global HR Business Partner.
Note: I am not suggesting to burst into anyone’s office saying “Tell me all your business”- find what comes natural for you. It will be more authentic.
3. The Champion
The champion happens to be the person who holds the keys to the opportunities that get you from point A to point B. Remember my story above about Stephanie? Stephanie reported directly into the VP of HR. After always talking to her about what an amazing talent I was- she created space for me to highlight more of my abilities. There were more opportunities for projects to work on, people to meet and knowledge advancement. Stephanie alone could not do this, however, through her as a sponsor- she indirectly made the VP of HR a champion for me and my aspirations.
It’s also important to remember that opportunities don’t always equal new job, promotions or even a pay raise. Opportunities can also be defined as the tools needed to help elevate your career. For me, those opportunities were stretch assignments, exposure to more strategic initiatives and so much more.
4. Raving Fans
This one is pretty simple. You need people who will cheer you on. They are the folks who want to see you win at any cost. No matter what anyone says about you- you are the apple of their eye. You greet them in the hallways, you ask about their weekend over coffee breaks, you check out a new restaurant on lunch to learn more about them, etc. These relationships, like the others happen pretty organically- so don’t go around fishing for folks to sing your praises. Just be normal.
5. Humble Haters
(Laughing inside about this one) No matter how awesome you are- there are going to be folks who say you are arrogant, you don’t deserve this, you can’t do that, that you… you see where I am going with this. You may find yourself running on fumes here. However, every time you find yourself feeling empty because of these folks, use their hate as the fuel to refill your tank. There doesn’t have to be a public service announcement that you are going to SHOW them. Just refill and start your engine again.
Before I go:
Just having a mentor is not enough. You need other people like the sponsor, the champion, the raving peers and the humble haters to succeed in 2018. As you become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent, the identification of these folks become a lot easier. Don’t think you have to go around asking people to be your sponsor or champion. Through networking and authenticity, these relationships will organically form. Shockingly enough, you will organically find the humble haters too.