If you’ve ever been in Enterprise Sales, you know to map your account and identify the following players: your Coach, your advocate, your detractors, your key decision makers, budget holders and users. If you’ve not net identified those players and made certain you understand the legal process or procurement process or when key players may be out on vacation, you will not control the sale or possibly even ever close it. Know who does what on your chess board is the key to your success.

Then why aren’t more people doing that with their careers? Who is your sponsor in the organization? Who is your mentor in your career? Who is your coach? Who are the members of your sounding board? Are they providing you with honest 360 degree feedback? How are you measuring your progress?

More people misuse the word ‘mentor’ than any other word I’ve heard recently. What is a mentor? How do we identify them in our careers and how are they different than coaches and sponsors?Mentors all tend to share four qualities so if you are wondering who plays that role in your life how to identify one, look for these traits:

  1. Mentors have high expectations of you. He or she may push you, see in you something you have not yet seen in yourself and your mentor will probably correct you for something you’ve done or said. You will notice the accountability in your relationship. Look for the questions you are asked and the ways you may not looking at a problem or decision-your mentor will hold up a mirror and a lens
  2. Mentors challenge us. A good mentor will push a little, suggest you may be over-reacting or not risking enough. Mentors think differently than we do and may even give you an assignment of something to work on improving or something you should stop doing. We won’t always like what our mentors say to us.
  3. Mentors do give us direction. You won’t be thrown to the wolves with your mentor because it is a relationship of trust. He or she may make connections for us, suggest a book or podcast we should consume and will even map out for us just how some conversations may go. Consider your mentor your sherpa. Map, flashlight and a few directions on how to stay on the right path are tools you will enjoy from your mentor.
  4. Finally, mentors support you. Have an awful week or lose a deal? Didn’t get the job offer or the promotion? Feel your personal brand is not working in your favor? Your mentor will listen, will ask some questions or offer some insight and will believe in you when you aren’t yet there for yourself.

All of the qualities above are done behind the scenes. Mentors may work with us or be in our profession and they may also show up as former clients, someone whose career we respect or a wiser and older friend. Oprah is not your mentor unless you work for her or in her profession and she meets the qualifications above. The woman at work who has an office and wields power but is not investing in you personally in the ways suggested above may just be a great example or she may become on your work wives. Mentors and coaches are not the same thing so while you do need both, let’s stay planted on the power of mentors.

Mentors should not be matched through quizzes or services so you’ll never see a ‘find your mentor’ sign up service here. It will happen organically. If you ask someone to be your mentor and she says yes, then follow up with her, put time on her calendar. Most of the time, the best mentoring relationships happen without one person approaching the other or one asking the other. My first mentor was a man who also happened to be my boss’ boss, then I had a female mentor who invested in my so heavily that I can still hear her words in my head. Now, I have a male mentor who is seven years younger than my parents and was once a client who threatened to throw me out of his office when I was presenting his company with a 23% price increase in the year of the economic downturn. He stopped being my client in 2013 but each trip I make to Chicago, he finds time to have lunch or coffee with me, once drove me to O’Hare for my flight and still checks in with me via email and phone. These days, he is my sounding board for the Go To Market Strategy of WWG and he follows up each call with a lengthy email of resources and is making introductions on my behalf.

High Expectations. Challenge. Giving Direction. Providing Support

Your career is one of the biggest deals you will ever manage. Why would you spend more time creating and mapping a deal than you would the way you trade your time for money?

If you have a mentor, be grateful, utilize the relationship and express gratitude. Senior people in organizations have more crowded calendars than those who are their mentees. If time is carved for you, it means you are worth the time.

Mentors aren’t paid, they aren’t matched like Tinder dates and they aren’t the person who just happens to make time to have coffee with you. Check the list above, take inventory of your life and career and work with your mentor. Remember: your sponsor is willing to give up political capital and will advocate for you publicly, your mentor may also do these things but will also go much deeper in your development and one day, if you aren’t already, you will mentor others.


Originally published at www.workwivesglobal.com