Role models are important in life, and there is more focus now than ever before on professional mentors to guide you in your career. Picking the right mentor and learning how to make the most of a mentor relationship are also important, but there are always more innovative techniques you can employ to leverage people around you. WomenCo. says that having just one mentor is so 1990s; a full panel of mentors is the way to go in 2008.
The concept behind a mentor panel is simple: You tap into the collective wisdom of several individuals, each bringing a different perspective, to give you the most well-rounded viewpoint to succeed in any phase of your life.
When picking your panel, it’s important to target people who meet specific criteria so that you hit all angles -- career, job, life. Use the checklist below to ensure that you are selecting the most effective panel of mentors in your life:
1.) Pick someone in your function. Whether you are in a common career field like marketing or an unusual one like astrobiology, find someone a few years ahead of you in the field so that they can help you understand and navigate the conventional career path for that profession. This person should be able to help you answer questions about what kind of education will you need to get ahead, how long the entry/training period lasts, and what the biggest drivers of higher salaries are.
2.) Pick someone in your company. If you are planning on staying with a company for more than a year, invest the time to find yourself a mentor who has been there longer than you have (usually one to two years longer) who can guide you through both the unspoken norms and cultural nuances as well as just getting things done. This person should be able to give you information about who the real influencers are in the company (hint: they're not always the ones with the titles), what behaviors are frowned upon, and whom you need to schmooze to set up a printer in your office.
3.) Pick someone who has successfully switched careers at least once. This is a skill you may never use, but if you do need to use it, you will be happy you took the time to practice before the actual need arose. An individual that has made a dramatic career change has can teach you how to network, how to sell yourself, and, most important, how to recognize when it’s time for a change.
4.) Pick someone of the opposite sex. As much as we like to debate it, men and women are wired differently and, therefore, perceive and react to stimuli in different ways. Learn to leverage that difference instead of ignoring it, so that you accumulate best practices from both genders. If you are a woman, pick a male mentor who can help you analyze a problem, resolve a conflict with a coworker, and most importantly, negotiate a higher salary.