As college graduation nears, your career and future is most likely on the forefront of your mind. This is such an exciting time in your life, full of new beginnings. You’ve been re-writing your resume, applying for jobs, and learning what it takes to crush your first job. Accomplishing those things is great, and I’m here to let you in on the secret weapon that influential leaders like Steve Jobs and Katia Beauchamp, Founder and CEO of Birchbox, used to advance in their careers. Do you want to be promoted 5 times more often? Do you want a 130% increase in career development that will set you apart from the thousands of other recent graduates? If you answered yes to these questions, it’s time for you to create your career squad by building mentor relationships.
What is a Career Squad?
During speaking engagements, I share the importance of women creating their career squads. By that I mean identifying women who are in high-level positions to teach you how to navigate workplace situations and position yourself for promotions. They can also give you insight into often ignored but important skills such as: writing a diplomatic email, responding within an hour of receiving an email from executives or your boss, and always bring a notebook and pen to a meeting. A mentor is the secret weapon to help avoid the mistakes that most new employees make. I learned the hard way (without a mentor) and now do everything I can to help future bosses like you avoid the same errors I made. That way, you can focus your energy on situations that will build your strengths.
Who makes the cut?
Be open-minded to the types of women you have in your career squad. Having a VP or CEO as a mentor is great, but pay attention to the put-together manager in the cubicle next to you. She didn’t get there out of sheer luck. Chances are, she can teach you how to get next-level success in your career too. Regardless of their position, you can learn a lot from someone’s experiences, drive, and knowledge of navigating work environments.
Keep in mind that not everyone who wants to be a mentor should be! When you’re considering mentors, look for these qualities:
Honesty. You need direct and honest feedback in order to make positive changes in your life. Look for people who will tell you the truth even if it hurts.
Trustworthy. If you feel like you cannot to trust someone, find another potential mentor! Your career squad should be filled with people you know you can trust with details of work and life problems.
Authenticity. You’re entering a mentor relationship that should be 100% real, open, and honest. Your career squad should be prepared to do the same thing. This doesn’t mean spilling details about the extra cocktail you had at dinner on Saturday. Instead, it means that your career squad consists of people who want to see you do well without getting anything back in return. That type of authenticity will take you a long way.
Someone you would enjoy spending time with. Your career squad is not your happy hour squad, they are not your fairy godmothers, and maybe not even your group of new BFFs. While you may not be calling them for Friday night adventures, you should still enjoy spending time with your mentors. If you aren’t looking forward to your monthly meet-up with your mentors, reconsider the relationships. You should look forward to meeting with them to talk about your goals and receive their advice. You won’t get much out of your meetings if you find yourself dreading each time you meet with them.
I can’t wait to see where your career takes you! Don’t forget to live in the now, plan for the future, and enjoy the experience of creating your career squad. Your career squad will help you deliver a greater impact and put you on the path to becoming a boss.
Janice Omadeke is a Washington, DC native and Founder of The Mentor Method. Through successfully mentoring and managing teams for Fortune 500 companies and boutique corporations, she discovered her passion is mentoring and encouraging millennial women to “Create their Career Squad”. She shares her career knowledge and passion as a career contributor on The DC Ladies blog, in addition to speaking engagements.