Coach, Mentor, Sherpa, Guide


The latest thing around town is coaching. A lot of us have been giving advice to people who have come up the ladder after us. I know that when I was moving up the corporate ladder I’d have been lost without the men and women in my professional life who coached me along the way. Some who especially urged me out of the prescribed job function I had at the time and challenged my skills and courage to push past my hesitation, even fear. I recall especially one who urged me to write. “Write anything,” she said. “Write to me if you want to.” She was a powerful female leader in an all-male institution. And she saw something in me that I couldn’t.

The point of mentoring is to help a mentee see what they can’t. Often from the vantage point of someone who has “been there, done that.”  The qualities we want in a great mentor other than experience  are: objectivity and no personal agenda. Ideally they even have experience in our chosen field but that’s not even mandatory. It’s more important to have a broad view of the world of work.

A colleague of mine Dr. Chaz Austin, headquartered in Los Angeles, has a course curriculum of instructional books and videos for today’s working professional. These guides “recontextualize” the job market, renaming it the “Gig Economy”. The instructions are aimed at not just people who are fresh graduates but professionals who are in transition. The main idea is that the work world guarantees us nothing and it’s up to us to learn the ropes and play by the New Rules.

How does someone know what the New Rules enough to pass them on? That’s the question to ask yourself when you look for a mentor or career coach.  There are lots of courses to train people to train other people. To me, the thing that counts most is the School of Hard Knocks.  There’s nothing like having  relatable experience to truly connect with a mentee. Sure there are principles involved and I highly recommend Dr. Austin’s Lynda.com course material on those as I use them myself when working with my mentees.  It’s well worth the subscription fee to get this invaluable advice.

All in, we are often in our own way when the going gets tough. It’s a great idea to get some objective advice from people who have gone before you.

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Author: Elaine Morris Palmer

FEBRUARY 4, 2009 - EXECUTIVE WOMEN2.0 added to top 100 Leadership blogs on the Web by Best Universities. 2011, Member site, Next Generation Leadership.

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