Office Ninjas are, without a doubt, a fierce species. They juggle multiple tasks, make time-sensitive decisions on the fly, and often save the day without any real support or recognition. But, despite their incredible power and strength, office ninjas are only human.
That’s why you need a mentor. Mentors are human too, but in times of professional crisis or uncertainty, they can seem like superheroes. And the good news is that potential mentors are everywhere: academic settings, past and current jobs, at networking events, and even in online communities like LinkedIn.
You can engage a new mentor by politely asking for a small amount of their time. Start with a ten minute “getting to know you” phone call or cup of coffee and, if things go well and they seem open to sharing advice and information, ask if you can contact them again in the future.
I guarantee you that you’ll be glad you did the legwork to find and cultivate a mentor relationship. Partners, friends and family members are great for venting, but they love you unconditionally and can’t be objective. And your peers’ perspectives may be too close to your own, which prevents them from providing useful insight. You can always light up the ol’ bat signal or try your hand at mental telepathy, but there are some situations in which a good mentor is even more powerful than a card-carrying superhero.
It’s hard to imagine a genius with flight capability and 2% body fat experiencing self-doubt. I’m sure even superheroes have their bad days, but you’re probably better off getting a pep talk from someone who not only believes in you and your career, but also has felt your pain. Hearing that your mentor, whom you admire and respect, once wondered if they had what it takes to succeed can sometimes be all you need to turn self-doubt into motivation.
2. Jerk Boss
Unless the movies and comic books leave out the parts where superheroes fill out timesheets, undergo annual reviews, and request PTO, it seems like most caped crusaders work on a freelance basis. It’s likely that your mentor has experience as both a subordinate and a manager, which makes them a great resource for tips on effective communication and “managing up.” A mentor with managerial experience can help you better understand where your boss’s bad behavior is coming from and how to best address it.
3. Coworker Issues
Unfortunately you don’t have a laser gun, and ultimate battles to the death are frowned upon by HR. You’re going to need to use your words, and a mentor with more experience has navigated all kinds of personalities and conflicts. Your mentor can likely give you tips on how to deal with a problematic coworker or point out ways that you may be inadvertently adding fuel to the fire.
4. Career Change
When you publicly don spandex and shoot spider webs from your wrists, you’re probably always going to be that guy. But most humans shift or completely change career paths at least once in their lives. A mentor, especially one who has experienced a career change, can help you vet opportunities and map out a plan of action. They may also be generous enough to tap into their own personal network and put you in touch with other professionals who work within your new field of interest.
In the super universe, failure’s not an option. For mentors and other mortals, failure is both inevitable and useful. There’s a lesson (albeit a painful one) in every failure, and your mentor can use their experience and perspective to help you see professional failures as teachable moments.
And remember ...
with great power comes great responsibility. One day in the future you will likely be called upon to mentor a budding office ninja. Keep the cycle of mentorship going by being as generous with your time, experience, and knowledge as possible.
Do you have a mentor, AKA a personal superhero? How did you find your mentor, and how do they help you?