A couple years into my wellness career, I landed a job with The Dow Chemical Company. It was a stroke of luck that rewarded me for many years because I was introduced to my first mentor. She influenced and guided me — not only in the 8 years I spent at Dow, but especially in the founding of HES and over the next 2 decades.
Today, I’m fascinated by my 26-year-old son’s career with a certain online behemoth and how 4 years into his tenure he’s acquired not 1, but 3 trusted advisers — all at different facilities. Listening to him explain how he consults with this person about how to lead people, another about his career path, and another about how to improve day-to-day processes reminds me how much the world has changed. Careers are so fluid — people coming and going, scattered across organizations, with fragmented time — that the idea of a monthly sit-down with a mentor now seems quaint.
For wellness managers, the need for multiple mentors has never been greater, for your career and your program. Competition for resources inside many organizations is so fierce that well-placed advisers not only act as sounding boards and counselors, but can advocate effectively and often for your program — leveraging as well as broadening your influence.
Looking for Mentors in All the Right Places
Google How to find a mentor and it comes back with 28 million results. Let me save you a little time:
- Don’t go “looking” for mentors. Instead, keep your mind open to the idea that there’s a lot you don’t know. That’s not a weakness, but an acknowledgment that others can provide valuable guidance for most every situation you’ll encounter in your career and life.
- Know who you admire. Great mentors aren’t necessarily the smartest, richest, highest-titled people in your world. They’re often those you look up to for their integrity, groundedness, composure, balance, discipline, happiness. They’re inside your organization and out, sometimes revealing themselves when you least expect it.
- Don’t confuse comfort with mentor value. Good mentors shouldn’t always pat you on the head and agree with you. In fact, a bit of discomfort from time to time is a good sign. We all need our ideas questioned, our perceptions challenged, if we’re going to grow.
- Let it happen. Some of the most valuable mentors aren’t asked “will you be my mentor?” though that’s perfectly fine, too. But often it happens organically and you simply acknowledge it: I really appreciate the counsel you offer and would love to do this regularly.
- Give more, ask for less. Human nature is such that people will trust you and invest time in you if they perceive you’re not just in this for yourself. If your actions convey an interest in the greater good, you open the doors to some of the most talented, connected, giving people in your social sphere.
- Pay it forward. Be a mentor when the opportunity presents itself. If you’ve made the most of knowing the talented, generous people in your life, you’ll naturally have a lot to offer others yourself.