In the initial stages of your career, one of the most important things you can do is build relationships that will have a significant impact on your life over time. These five relationships can accelerate your path to a promotion, increase your visibility within an organization, and stretch you beyond your comfort zone into the leader you aspire to be.
1. The Mentor: Mentorship is all about having challenging conversations that help increase your self-awareness and help you grow both personally and professionally. Great mentors are proven leaders who have advanced their career within their organization or industry. To find one, think about someone whose path you deeply admire but is still within reach. Engage with them regularly updating them on your projects, progress, and achievements.
2. The Sponsor: Mentors give you advice and perspective, but sponsors advocate on your behalf. Sponsors can support your boss in advocating for you in front of other members of your leadership team. They play a role in the “behind closed doors” conversations that you may not be included in. To find a sponsor, you need to begin by showing people in your organization that you’re someone worth advocating for. This means you must be great at what you do and your work must be visible.
3. The Partner: A partnership is a mutually beneficial peer relationship fueled by trust, a shared drive to succeed and the recognition that you can do better together. Your partner is an ally who can serve as a sounding board to broaden your perspective, a collaborator to tackle problems with, and a connector that can help you build out your personal brand. Look for someone whose personality and work ethic complement your own.
4. The Competitor: Competition can be healthy if it’s focused on achieving results rather than battling for resources. When used correctly, it can serve as a motivation to hone and improve your skills. Your competitor could be your ally or even your partner. One way to entice them to work with you, instead of against you, is to have a vulnerable conversation.
5. The Mentee: If you want to master something, teach it. Becoming a mentor also helps hone important soft skills that every leader should have: strong communication, creativity, and empathy. As a mentor, you are a leader and role model. You learn to bring out the best in others, recognize their strengths, give feedback, and coach. Seek out these opportunities internally by looking for interns or new employees that may need help settling in or externally by mentoring in affinity organizations like your alma mater or non-profit.
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