This article was authored as a contribution to the Honeypot Cult community - you can read it there too!
Growing up in a small rural town taught me many values that I believe make me who I am today.
Sports were a significant part of that culture and being part of a family with many great athletes, it was natural to follow suit. Athletics introduced me to many values that are still critical in my life today: deliberate practice, strong work ethic, teamwork, integrity, and humility.
Summers brought in the joy of swimming and fishing as we hopped in our canoe for a journey floating down the river. Winter meant snowball fights, snow-shovelling, and hot cocoa nights. Since there wasn’t much to do, we learned to appreciate the little things: nature, community, and patience.
I’m thankful for the small-town life that taught me so much through my younger years! But there were two pieces missing from it – corporate life and professionalism.
Entering the corporate workforce introduced to me a new environment, one that I had no experience working in before.
The transition from college student to corporate life:
I was honoured to be chosen for an internship at a medium-sized company (~700 employees) in my college years. I felt behind as my knowledge of professionalism was low and my experience was even lower at that time. My new manager, Matt, was a joy to work for and the team I was working with was so helpful.
I trudged on through the projects assigned to me that the first summer, with the help of my teammates, they went well and the team invited me back the following summer! I was able to work on different projects throughout my college years part-time, leading to a full-time position offer during my last semester! I was exuberant!
The transition from medium-size to Fortune 100
Around the time of my college graduation, I accepted a new role in GE Healthcare’s IT Leadership Program. This would give me the opportunity to work for a larger corporation and learn from top leaders in the Healthcare industry.
During my first two weeks, we had the opportunity to learn from program members as they presented on how the program was run, what to expect, and how to be successful as a program member.
My first 6-month rotation was in Project Management - something I had never done before. I had no idea how to run conference calls or set up real project plans. I was learning how to network and conduct meetings with different colleagues. It was hard to say no to extracurricular activities as a new employee and presenting in front of people was not a skill that I had much practice at.
You could say I had quite a lot to learn. I needed some help.
The two transitions above were the largest by far in my life - both having many moments of discomfort as I grew through a new experience. I had no idea what to do at times and quickly recognised that others could help. Thankfully, they were up for sharing their knowledge - my transitions were successful due to having great mentors help me throughout my journey.
Mentors are Important
Experience: one of life’s greatest teachers.
There are others in your organisation who have experienced similar situations that you’re currently going through. They have the skills you want to develop and can help you get there. They have perspectives that are vastly different than yours because they have lessons that were created from mistakes; mistakes you can now avoid if passed down to you.
These wonderful people full of wisdom within your organisation are all in reach - it just takes a little courage to ask for help or set up that first meeting!
Find people you aspire to be
Mentors offer you their stories, experiences, and knowledge as you navigate your career. You can allow them to be a sounding board, guiding you down the path that’s best for you and urging you to get out of your comfort zone.
Mentors are veterans that want to pass the torch of their success to you!
During my internship, I learned the value of forward-thinking and learning fast from one of my senior teammates. He was professional, humble, and respectful to all while dealing with tough deadlines in an intense project. He was always able to lend a helping hand to me and take on tough tasks for the project to help the business. I learned how vital people are for different aspects of projects. He mentored me throughout those years, and many of the characteristics that he demonstrated were things I respected and aspire to be every day.
My program manager at GE could quickly demand the respect of the room through the power of her voice and words. She expected you to be great and as a mentor, she offered time to help you get there. I recall presenting a run-through for a presentation to CIOs to her, and based on my performance, it was clear I wasn’t ready. She offered me to set up a time with her to practice a presentation to our CIOs - which of course I did. Susan could be tough on you, but she was also the first one giving praise on a job well done. She knew how to lead and impact the lives of those in her program and gave opportunities for everyone to grow.
She absolutely changed my life.
It was apparent after meeting with her a few times that this was someone who had traits that were admirable. How many people do you know who have people who they managed calling them for advice 20 years later?
Ask For Mentors
I believe that the mentor and mentee relationship is much more successful when there’s an admiration factor. It’s easier to listen and believe in the advice given by someone you admire and respect.
Choosing the right mentors makes a huge difference in the advice and lessons you can take away. Once you identify a potential mentor - set up a time to meet them and learn their story.
If there is a connection and the moment feels right, have the courage to ask: “will you be my mentor?”
This solidifies it and gives the mentor a chance to make sure they are in it, too. Now you must build.
Building the relationship
Strong relationships take time to build because they require trust, self-disclosure, and effort.
Here are a few tips that can help:
Learn their story - where are they from and how did they get to where they are?
Tell them your story and how you got here
Set up meetings with your mentors to check in—typically quarterly via lunch or coffee
Be prepared for meetings—agendas are essential when asking for someone’s time. If you have no reason to meet then don’t waste someone’s time
Trust and listen
Ask questions and tell them how you’re doing
Ask for advice when a situation comes up you’re not sure of
Be kind and respectful
Building a new relationship means building new trust and making the time for it to grow. Asking someone to be your mentor means that both people are now committed to growing that relationship, time will do the rest!
Transitioning from country town life to full-time employee at large corporations has been an absolute blast. I’m very grateful for the amazing people who took time from their responsibilities to teach, guide, and constructively criticise to make me a stronger professional; without their guidance, I would be learning many of the lessons on my own.
Finding a mentor that has the characteristics you strive for makes a huge difference in your career. I urge you to start looking for one today.