Mentoring is an important survival tool for anyone changing career paths.
There are significant business trends that are making mentoring an important survival tool for anyone seeking to maintain a career within a fast paced and changing business climate. One example is changing career patterns.
Once upon a time...
“Once upon a time ...” is how we might describe what used to be the traditional career development process. You:
- went to college
- got your first job
- worked there for 2-3 years to gain experience
- eventually moved on to increasingly responsible positions
- finally settled on one major company that gave you “golden handcuffs” until you retired or got fired
In the event that you were “downsized” or “deselected”, you might be given the services of an outplacement firm that would work with you until you either found your next job or the contract ran out. If you were in your late 40’s or older, you had a particularly difficult time, despite age discrimination laws, in locating your next opportunity. It was likely that you would have to start at a lower position with subsequent lesser salary. Then you began the process all over again.
This pattern started to change dramatically at the end of the ‘80’s boom. White collar workers were the hardest hit as jobs got squeezed out and many became unemployed. This “squeezing” of the middle layer in corporations changed the career ladder, moving it from vertical to horizontal. People caught in this squeeze needed to look at comparable jobs in a linear way as fewer and fewer jobs existed.
The standard now is not upward career mobility but career flexibility and adaptability.
Expertise is what commands attention and leads to career advancement and financial suc-
People are moving away from viewing themselves as a “resume” and more as a package of skills and competencies available within the employment marketplace.
Although this change may be traumatic for a lot of us, it does promise to give us a more exciting and, potentially, more satisfying career. We will become multi-employed in the future either by having multiple employers in the course of our career(s) or in being employed by several employers at one time as we parcel out our expertise to each organization on an “as needed” basis.
The changing workplace will also change our venue of work. With technology, more employees will work from their homes and go infrequently to the office. An affordable home office including computer, modem, fax machine, videoconferencing, E-mail, copier, etc., is available to all of us, allowing us to link globally without leaving the comfort of our homes.
What can you do for me today?
If “once upon a time” describes the career path of yesterday, “What can you do for me today” could be the mantra of those navigating the new career path. Control of your career, now more than ever before, rests in your own hands. Strategic thinking about what school to select, what companies to pursue and what kind of work environment within which to work will provide the most fertile ground for your career growth.
Being current in your expertise and thinking strategically allow you to market yourself
from a position of real strength to those companies (let’s call them clients) which have the
most to offer. Once employed by that company, it will be critical for you to continue to demonstrate your value through research and by linking yourself with influential people who can give you valuable guidance in finding new ways to demonstrate your worth to the organization.
The need to remain current and on the “cutting edge” by developing key competencies can be greatly assisted by having one or more mentoring relationships.
Having access to someone who has expertise and experience in navigating a career path and who can encourage and support your professional growth is a critical tool in becoming more successful. A mentor won’t solve all your problems or provide you with all the answers, but s/he can smooth the transition, provide you with valuable insight and support you in taking risks with fewer negative consequences.
There are countless selfless individuals who are willing to be asked to be a mentor and who have a wealth of information and expertise to share. Why not tap into this vast and valuable resource rather than tackling every issue on your own, resulting in a lot of false starts, lost opportunities, and a frustrated career path?
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