Dear Friends and Clients,

Can you think of a time in your career when you longed to be rescued . . . when you dreamed that a white knight would swoop in and carry you away to a better workplace?

The desire to be rescued is pretty basic and the possibility of rescue is imbedded in our culture. When an Ancient Greek dramatist entangled his characters in such a mess that the play couldn’t move forward, he might write in a “deus ex machina.” That’s a plot device, literally translated as a “god from a machine,” where a god or surprise event appears out of nowhere to magically resolve a crisis.

When my clients long to be rescued, they might fantasize about their bosses taking early retirement, or wealthy new customers unexpectedly walking in the door. Another theme I often hear is “if only I had a mentor!”

The truth is, however, that most of the time we have to rescue ourselves. We all have career down times, and the trick is to develop resources that will help us to work our way out of the crises that are inevitable.

It’s not realistic to wish for adoption by a mentor with magical powers. But it makes a lot of sense to cultivate a network of real life mentors to whom you can turn for guidance, support and inspiration. In this issue I’ll suggest ways that you can build relationships with mentors.

Warm Wishes, Bev

Develop Mentors
To Foster Your Career

September 15, 2009 * Number 111

Much has been written about the benefits of having mentors to guide our career paths. Most of us, however, are not lucky enough to find one special mentor who is always there to smooth our way. Instead, people who understand the power of mentoring relationships routinely cultivate a varied network of people to whom they can turn for many kinds of help.

If you want to energize your mentorship network, consider these suggestions.

  • Make specific requests. Many experts suggest that if you want people to serve as mentors you must be prepared to ask for help. Yet busy people may be turned off by a vague, open-ended request like, “be my mentor.” You will probably do better by clearly asking for a certain kind of assistance. People enjoy being asked for small, easily delivered favors, and once they have granted a favor they may continue to be interested in the recipient.

  • Be a mentor. A great way to develop a deep understanding of mentorship is to look for opportunities to serve as a mentor. As you find ways to assist your protégés you also will learn how mentoring can be a two-way street.

  • Develop the mentorship habit. You’ll master the art of mentorship if you find many opportunities to practice it. Look for occasions to freely give or seek support throughout your life, and not just at the office. Seek to develop multiple mentors who span the range of your interests and activities.

  • Meet people. You are more likely to identify likely mentors if you cultivate broad social and professional circles. Look for groups and activities that will allow you to meet new people. Explore nonprofit work that will allow you to show what you can do, and build working relationships with a whole new crowd.

  • Help your mentor. The most successful mentoring relationships bring learning and benefits to both parties. Mentors may get bored with protégés interested only in “me, me, me!” Seek to understand your mentors’ challenges and be on the lookout for ways that you can provide assistance.

  • Don’t be defensive. Sometimes protégés chill their mentoring relationships by taking offense at the very advice they sought. When you ask for feedback, be prepared to listen carefully and put your emotional reactions aside.

  • Be positive. It is great to ask for help, but you have gone too far if you get bogged down in whining. Mentors won’t want to waste their time and energy if you are hung up on being a victim. Be realistic about the challenges you are facing, be straightforward in your plea for help, and try to sound optimistic as you talk about the future.

  • Say “thanks.” Even reliable, longstanding mentors don’t like being taken for granted. Write “thank you” notes and look for other simple ways to express your appreciation when someone goes out of their way to assist you.

    Want more ideas for managing your career? In addition to providing executive coaching, Bev is available to speak about a broad range of issues related to your work life. Visit her website at or email to Bev directly. Bev is associated with Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates.

  • Bev’s Tips for a Better Work Life is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month by Beverly E. Jones of ClearWays Consulting, LLC. Bev is a lawyer and former executive who now coaches accomplished executives and other professionals to bring new direction, energy and enjoyment to their work lives.

    Copyright ©2009, ClearWays Consulting, LLC & Beverly E. Jones

    All rights in all media reserved.  However, the content of Bev’s Tips for a Better Work Life may be forwarded in full without special permission on the condition that (1) it is for non-profit use and (2) full attribution and copyright notice are given. For other uses please contact Bev Jones.

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