Career Management for Mentors

Career Management for Mentors

Career Management for Mentors

The advice you give today, could change the world tomorrow.

When someone is charged with mentoring someone else, they are given a great responsibility. Although the mentee is certainly responsible for his own career, the mentor has a certain obligation to help in shaping the mentee’s career.

The mentor will set examples, give advice, and provide direction that could shape the career of her protégé for his entire career.  Assuming the mentee continues paying it forward, he will likely pass on what he learned from his mentor to the next generation. It is sometimes what legacies are made of.

Despite the influence a mentor has in shaping generations to come, another responsibility the mentor has is to manage her own career. The “do what I say and not what I do” approach will cost the mentor her credibility and diminish her effectiveness in more areas than just mentoring.

A mentor who manages her own career sets an example for a mentee that speaks more than any advice she can give. It teaches a lesson of success and responsibility that creates the true legacy of mentoring

Career management for mentors means thinking long term

A person who thinks long-term defines the difference between a job and a career. An employee who comes to work day-to-day, with the sole objective of just getting through the day, adds very little value.

The “day-to-dayer” thinks only in terms of reaching the weekend. When Friday finally arrives, that worker meanders through one more day and runs for the door when the work week comes to an end.

Having a plan

Instead of a daily grind, think long-term about your career. Think of your career as a novel. Define the end of your career. Think about the day that you retire and how you would like that day to go. You may not have any idea what company you will be working for, what your role is, or how technology will be used. But you can envision some goals about your success.

Develop a plan to get to the end of that novel. Plan for continued growth to help you get there. You will certainly have to make adjustments as you go along that path. But like a stock market graph, it will probably have a jagged upward slope.

Set your standards high. Instead of being another employee, seek to be a leader. Having a target will give you more incentive to reach your destination.

On the day you retire, imagine that the technology exists where everyone from your past can gather virtually. How do you want to be remembered by them? Will people wish you well or will they ignore you as you walk out the door? A lot of that depends on how you treated them throughout your career. Did you praise people when it was deserved, or did you worry that it would make them feel overconfident and entitled? Did you say thank you when people helped you, or did you keep score of who owed whom?

When you managed people, were you a tyrant as a boss? How did you treat your own bosses? Did you badmouth them behind their back or support them even when you disagreed?

How did you treat your customers? Did you cheat them out of their money at every opportunity or did you partner with them so that everybody received value from the relationship?

Did you love your family and faithfully give them the time they deserved? Or did you justify that the extra hours you worked provided a better home and better schools? They would probably have forgone all of the expensive amenities for your attendance at the soccer games, baseball games, and other activities where they only sought your attention.

Regardless of the advice you give the people you mentor, if your own life and career are a shambles, they may be reluctant to follow your advice.

Career management means using education rather than just acquiring it.

career management for mentors

Apply rather than accumulate education

We all probably know a professional student or two. People who have no apparent career direction other than to acquire degrees and certifications. Career students have a seemingly endless list of TLAs (three-letter acronyms) after their name.

What these people don’t seem to recognize is that, while learning and continuous growth are important, they are not the end-all-be-all of a career. Certifications and degrees are like a baby’s first step. A great achievement worthy of some celebration. But only a building block for life’s true achievements.

What does a baby do once he takes his first step? He learns to walk, and then run. Then, he learns to reach destinations.

Obtaining a degree or certification can be a great building block, but it must then be applied in order to reach a real destination. Instead of resting on educational accolades, use your learning to be a problem solver.

Career management involves personal branding

When products like Nike or Apple are mentioned, a certain image appears in your mind. It may be positive, negative or neutral. It all depends upon how you view that product’s brand. Those two companies have done a particularly good job of branding. While you can’t please all of the people all of the time, they have done a good job of pleasing the majority.

What do people think of when they hear your name?

It all depends on your actions and your attitude and the effect they have on others. If you are negative and cynical you may poison your environment, no matter how much value you may add in other areas.

How do you handle your emotions? Do you fly off the handle and throw tantrums whenever things go wrong? When you walk in the room, can people read your face and know whether to greet you or to avoid you? Or do you control your emotions maturely and professionally?

How do you handle yourself when others can’t control their emotions? If you are the type that is able to calm others down and walk them through resolution of a problem, people will turn to you in times of need.

How you deal with your own emotions and those of others will go far to define your personal brand.

How you use social media will brand you within your workplace and beyond. No matter how you act at work, if you post unprofessional pictures of yourself online, you will damage your brand. Being outspoken on social media about politics, or creating unnecessary drama is a potential way to negatively brand you at work, or with prospective employers.

On the other end of the spectrum, the online world is a great way to brand yourself in a positive manner. Through positive posts and sharing articles of interest to your connections, you can greatly enhance your personal brand. Additionally, developing a blog and sharing your observations about your industry can enhance your online reputation.

Being competitive is usually viewed as a positive trait. When it is held to a level of reason it usually is positive. If you are uber-competitive with others, it can be problematic. If you have to win and need others to lose, it can brand you negatively. There is an old saying: “There are two ways to have the tallest building in town. Build the tallest building, or tear all of the taller ones down.”

If you have to resort to tearing others down in order for you to “win,” you will push others away. You eventually won’t win any competitions because no one will want to compete with you anymore.

One test of that competitive spirit is when you receive a promotion. People will observe how you make the transition of working with co-workers to managing them. Whether you respect those co-workers, or treat them as minions will reflect how they view you.

If you are reasonable and don’t go on a power trip with your new-found authority, you will get greater performance from your team and more respect from everyone around you.

Career management by dealing with failure

How you deal with your own failure will go far in teaching others to manage their own careers. If you blame others whenever anything goes wrong, you set an example that others will follow. It becomes contagious.

Mentors who manage their career understand that everyone makes mistakes. Career managers are analytical and learn from their mistakes. They look at what happened and identify what they would do differently if faced with the same situation again. They take the lessons learned and try to determine where it could be applied elsewhere.

Managing your career by being organized

To effectively manage your career, it is important to reach your achievements. Once you have developed your long-term master plan, you develop intermediate milestones to help realize that plan.

In order to meet those milestones, you have to establish mini-plans, set priorities and execute effectively. All of that is difficult, if not impossible, to do unless you are well organized.

Being organized means being willing to do the overhead work that is involved. People deal with documents every day. Whether those documents are in paper or electronic form, it is important to have an organized approach to storing and retrieving them efficiently.

Disorganized people don’t address the overhead time of being organized to store things where they belong. They in turn spend more time trying to find them in physical piles of papers, or in virtual stacks of electronic documents strewn about a hard drive.

Being organized is critical to being efficient. Being efficient is essential to achieving your goals.

Career management through good communication

Career Management for Mentors

Career Management Through Good Communication

Someone who manages their career effectively communicates in a clear and concise manner. Communication is critical from many different aspects.

One of the most important ways to communicate effectively is in meetings. Meetings take up the collective time of the meeting multiplied by the number of people in attendance. As such, it is important to communicate clearly and effectively. If you are the meeting organizer, it is important to have an agenda and follow it. If you are a meeting attendee it is important to follow the agenda and avoid going off topic.

Email is one of the primary forms of communication in the business world. In some environments, people receive hundreds of emails per day. Regardless of the volume, it is important to make sure that communication through email is effective and efficient. Always provide a subject line that clearly provides the topic being discussed. Vague subject lines like “question” or “meeting” provide no background and can require the busy recipient to read through the email multiple times to understand what the email is even about.

Once a subject line has been determined, get to the point. Explain the email’s purpose in the first sentence. If detailed background information is required add it to the bottom after the recipient knows exactly why the email is being sent.

Additionally, good communication skills are vital when meeting 1-on-1 with others. Make eye contact and face the person you are talking to so that they can clearly understand what you are saying. Put down any electronic devices or anything else that could distract you or the person you are communicating with in order to ensure effective communication

Finally, to effectively manage your career and be a good communicator, you should hone your skills at public speaking. A good communicator is comfortable presenting in front of a group of people. If you wish to grow in your career and have influence over others, you must develop your skills as a public speaker.


A good mentor helps others to manage their career and develop a positive career growth trajectory. In order to set a good example a good mentor should also practice good career management for her own career.

Mentors should demonstrate long term career planning to teach mentees to aim high and achieve their goals. They should impress on them that, while education and training are important, they are tools to be used to help achieve their ultimate goals. They aren’t goals in and of themselves.

Mentors should manage their careers by creating a personal brand that creates a positive image in the minds of anyone that hears their name. They should model the ability to deal with failure and embrace it in order to continuously learn.

Finally, mentors who effectively manage their careers develop good communication skills that enable them to communicate clearly and concisely regardless of the mode of communication.

As a mentor, do you manage your career as well as you teach others to manager theirs?

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.

I welcome your questions and comments.

Images courtesy of Maya Picture, Pannawat, and Photostock at

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