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Sylvia Arthur says the value of mentors can’t be underestimated in the corporate arena

The corporate maze is hard enough to navigate without having to do it on your own. The twists and turns of office politics and company culture can play havoc with even the most professional employee and threaten to throw you off your course. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people you can trust who have your best interests at heart.

It’s important to have mentors, especially other women who’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to? In his book, Love the Work You’re With, Richard Whiteley suggests cultivating a board of advisors to help you find your way up the corporate ladder. This board, like a company board, should consist of:

* a mentor, someone who wants to see you succeed and has the time and interest to dedicate to you;
* a strategist, someone who’ll help you map your professional future;
* a problem solver, or someone who focuses on the present and helps you to get past issues;
* a coach;
* a butt kicker, someone to challenge you; and
* a cheerleader, someone to encourage and motivate you.

Everyone in your team is an integral part of your eventual success.

I’m very much at the beginning of my career but, since I started on this road, I’ve met some wonderful women who’ve helped me along the way. These women have left an indelible mark on me, helping to shape me both professionally and personally and have, through their kindness and counsel, shown me that success, however you define it, is truly a collective achievement.

Dr Wayne W. Dyer, author of Everyday Wisdom for Success, says:

“Choose to be in close proximity to people who are empowering, who see the greatness in you, who feel connected to God, and who live a life that Spirit has found celebration through them.”

I’m lucky enough to have benefited from the wisdom of strong women. Here, I pay homage to them and their selflessness:

My mentors / other mothers – Natalie and Maria
It takes a generous spirit to open up their life to you and offer you a way through your own journey. Natalie and Maria were two women who did just that. I worked with when I was new to local government. They were both of a similar age, married with teenage children (although Maria was going through a divorce) and at similar stages in their careers. They’d both worked in the public sector for a number of years and had slowly become disillusioned but their passion for serving, parental responsibilities and other commitments had kept them there. Both of them had lived a life and were kind enough to share their personal and professional experiences with me so that I wouldn’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations that they went through. I learnt a lot from them and continue to do so though I don’t see them as often as I once did. I often wonder what they saw in me, why they chose to impart their knowledge to me and take me under their wing. Perhaps the fact that they both had daughters had something to do with it. Or maybe it was Maria’s religious beliefs. Whatever it was, their interest in me and my welfare was invaluable and I’ll always be grateful for their wisdom, guidance and support.

My strategist / problem solver – Tracey
I’d been without a manager for some time when, in early 2008, senior management recruited a young woman to fill the role that had been vacant for months. Tracey came in determined to make a difference and, from day one, she did. She proved to be someone to look up to. Tracey inherited a disunited, dejected team but, by the time she left eighteen months later, she had impacted on us all in so many ways. I, in particular, benefited from her management and, ultimately, her friendship. When I was on the verge of quitting my job in the midst of a recession, Tracey made me see sense. I was smack bang in the middle of typing my resignation when, at just the right moment, she emailed me some words of wisdom from Iyanla Vanzant that made me pause and reconsider. After that, she helped me scour the papers and the internet for jobs and helped me prepare for interviews when I eventually got them. When I was finally offered and accepted a new post, Tracey kept me sane in the four weeks I had to work my notice when all I wanted to do was flee. Like me, Tracey moved on to a better post. Like her, I hope to be the best manager I can be for myself and my team.

My cheerleader – Jacquie
Until a few months before leaving my last job, I never had any real relationship with the woman who was to become my cheerleader. Out of our team, Jacquie had been in the job the longest and had felt the sting of office politics. But she was great at not getting involved in the bitching and backbiting, preferring instead to withdraw in to her work and get on with what needed to be done. As a perfectionist, she was known to be difficult to work with and wasn’t the most popular among colleagues but that didn’t bother her. Getting the job done and doing it well was what mattered to her. Having been promoted to a manager two years ago, Jacquie was always busy but she spared me her time, even when she didn’t have it to give. When I needed advice on interview technique, she obliged and motivated me. When I resigned myself to being stuck where I was, she saw in me the potential to achieve far beyond what I was currently achieving. Jacquie had every confidence in me and never doubted my ability, only my self-belief. And she sought to rectify this. Through her continual encouragement I was able to see past my self-imposed limitations. Because of Jacquie, my whole approach to work has changed for the better.

Once you’ve been mentored, you’ll instinctively want to pass on your good fortune and mentor others. Freely give the benefit of your experience. It will certainly boost your professional karma. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around. I look forward to the day when my mentors get the goodness they deserve. It’s surely just around the corner.

Who are your mentors? Who has helped you get to where you are? Tell us by leaving your comment below!

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  • Brandi

    Lita, I agree with you.