Mentorship Trifecta – Why You Need 3 Mentors for Career Success

by Jennifer Miller on December 4, 2012

in Guest Blogger, Human Resources, Leadership, Personal Effectiveness

Note from Jennifer: This guest post is by Misty Smalley, HR practioner and founder of The Corporate Swan. Misty and I are both graduates of the InPower Coaching “Self-Promotion Strategies for Women” program. Misty has a tremendous amount of real-life experience to offer and I’m thrilled she’s sharing it here with the readers of The People Equation.

Three-leaf cloverYou need a mentor. Two is better. Three mentors – it’s like the ultimate career trifecta. You are the initiator and the owner of your mentor relationships, whether or not you have them, who they are, and what you do with them. You drive the “asks” made of them– and the more specific you can be, the better.

Here are three types of mentors you need and how each can impact your

a) personal
b) social
c) career development/growth/advancement potential.

The Comforter

Someone you already know and trust. This is a confidante, really. Especially as a leader, you need someone with whom you can talk about not just your highs, but also your lows… the emotional junk on those days when nothing has gone right and you feel like a little less than yourself.

Personal: The Comforter is necessary and important. They are sounding boards and lifters. They are safe havens. Choose wisely because your well-planned and presented professional persona are only as good as they are consistent. Whomever you let into the inner machinations of your professional identity should be a trusted and sworn ally.

Social: Need to let off some steam? The Comforter is the chosen one – someone in whose company you can relax and find enjoyment.

Career Development/Growth/Advancement : While the Comforter has keen insights into those things that make you feel good – and happy – his/her business advice may be too subjective to trust without question. In terms of your career, your Comforter is the leader of your fan club.

The Challenger

This mentor is a person you know well and who knows how you operate. Challengers will ask the difficult questions even if you don’t want to hear them… or answer them… including, “What would you do differently in that situation if you had it to do again?” or “What should you have done?” Basically, the questions you’d never hear from your Comforter.

Personal: Challengers, though they may seem adversarial, actually push you to define your beliefs and take accountability for both your skills and your opportunities. They draw attention to your mistakes in a safe and constructive way, with the goal of identifying why/where it went wrong, but also guide you to heightened awareness to create a better outcome next time.

Social: Your Challenger may introduce you around to his/her peers and others who fill in your network. Your new acquaintances may not know a lot about you, but you are no longer a stranger, and that is a great start.

Career Development/Growth/Advancement: An appropriate ask of your Challenger? Help you get yourself where you want to go, with realistic goals and tangible action items. He/she can point out your blind spots and help you own your gaps – in knowledge, expertise, etiquette … and then help you create ways to fill them.

The Stretcher

This sounds scary – but that is a good thing. This mentor should be way outside of your comfort zone. Someone you admire and emulate. In a hierarchy chain of supervisor – manager – director – vice president – senior vice president – president, a Stretcher should be at least two levels above your current post. A supervisor, for example, would aim for a Stretcher who is a director. At the director level or above, one level above your own post may be more realistic.

Personal: You’ll very likely be uncomfortable right from the start due to the differing levels of responsibility… but this is also a good thing. You need a safe place to grow accustomed to the attention of someone you respect and admire, and to overcome the headiness enough to build a relationship. Although the first meeting or two will be a nerve-wracking experience with palms sweating and voice shaking, you will get to know about each other and the conversation will become easier.

Social: In everyday work life, most of us don’t get many opportunities to ask our burning questions of these mystical creatures we call leaders – like, how did they get where they are? Were they ever like me? The Stretcher’s personal success story is a place to start – with many opportunities to point out synergies with your own experience, or marvel at the differences and how you can learn from them. Gives you some insight into their personality, as well, introducing more potential topics for discussion at the personal level.

Career Development/Growth/Advancement: Some piece of insight you share, or nugget of an idea you float while meeting with your Stretcher will stick with him/her. One day, when he/she is sitting in a meeting with his/her peers, that nugget will become the missing piece of a bigger idea and your Stretcher will share. You’ll go from unknown to known as your nugget is thrown around the table. Even if it is not THE next big thing, your network is expanding, tuning in and your “On Air” light is lit.

So get to performing, my friend!

About today’s guest blogger:

Misty Smalley is an HR practitioner for a large multi-national grocery retailer who specializes in translating strategic vision into tangible goals for her company’s workforce. She offers advice to help people navigate corporate culture, identify obstacles and creative ways around them. Connect with Misty at:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nike December 4, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Hello Misty,
Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing! A blend of the three categories (especially the last two) are very essential for continous self development and advancement.

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