You can be forgiven for thinking that to succeed in your career, all you need is hard work and great performance reviews from your manager. We focus so much on the static aspects of learning, such as books and completing repetitive tasks (to ensure we get better at them) that there’s often little attention paid to potentially one of the most important influences (or not) on your career - a mentor.
A mentor is a teacher above all else. We all remember our favourite teachers from school and how they helped shape and encourage our interests in science, education, or math. This is exactly what a mentor provides for you in your career and you need it.
There’s not always an obvious choice of mentor - it could be your direct manager, a manager in a different group, or a senior leader in the organization. The key is to find someone who can help you navigate the inevitable twists and turns of your career and inspire you all at the same time. Ideally, they should be someone who you think does a superb job at what they do and you’re confident you can learn from.
Everyone needs help, embrace it.
One thing you’ll find is that behind every great leader is a great mentor. Bill Gates has Warren Buffet. Barrack Obama had Frank Marshall Davis. Sheryl Sandberg has Larry Summers. These leaders didn’t get where they are today on their own - they had help.
You need people to champion your cause
It’s one thing to talk up your own work, it’s another thing to have someone more experienced and influential on your side doing the talking. Your mentor will be heard more clearly and taken far more seriously.
Good counsel is critical
Your career is based on the decisions you make. When to move company. When to stay.Whether to fight for a promotion (or not). You can’t make the right decisions without the good counsel of those that have been there and done that. The mark of a great leader is who they surround themselves with - give yourself the best chance and benefit from the experience of others.