It’s Never Too Soon To Have A Mentor!

Studies show that success in your twenties can be critical to building your confidence and a track record that will greatly impact your career in your thirties and beyond.

Meanwhile early mistakes, or just drifting too long can easily leave you feeling directionless, frustrated and five to ten years behind your peers.

Beware of those who tell you not to worry about time – that your thirties are the new twenties. You can pay a high price when you reach your thirties if employers do not value your skills, knowledge and experience.

The goals you set in your twenties, plus the time and effort you invest in succeeding in them, will define your future. This is why it is so important as a student or a recent graduate to have the right mentors guiding you.

They will challenge you with a sense of urgency, and encourage you to have more ambitious and strategic goals. A good mentor will help you see beyond your current perspective. They will guide you away from potential pitfalls and dead ends – and push you beyond your own self-limitations. Specifically they can help you network, find internships and job openings. They can help you turn your twenties into the decade that acts as the foundation for your long term success.

This is why it is not uncommon for interviewers to ask who you consider to be your mentors and give examples of the impact they have had on your success. Your answer will speak to your ability to develop relationships, take advice, act on that advice and be proactive about your future.

I would like to tell you about someone who acted as a mentor to me who had a huge impact on my career.

Meet Frank Martire who just retired as Executive Chairman of the Board at FIS.

Frank and his team have lead FIS to become the world’s largest provider dedicated to banking and payment technologies serving over 20,000 financial institutions in 130 countries with over $9.2 billion in revenue and 55,000 staff.

Last week I had the honor of being invited to his retirement party. It was held in the New York Stock Exchange where he got to ring the closing bell.

To say that it was a memorable evening for me would be a huge understatement! He made a great speech about how long we had all known each other. It prompted me to write this article on the importance of having mentors.

Over twenty-five years ago, after an intense interview in a Heathrow airport hotel just outside London, in England, Frank gave me the opportunity to turn around a struggling business in Europe. It was the beginning of a relationship that has continued to this day.

So how did the mentoring start?

Please note it did not start by me asking out of the blue “Hey Frank – would you mind being my mentor?” That would just have come across as asking Frank to do something for me. Given that I did not report directly to Frank it is also unlikely he would have agreed.

In fact I had no expectation of becoming his mentee. It simply started in a small way by genuinely asking Frank for advice on how to achieve objectives that were important to him as well as me. It was critical to the relationship to then act on his advice, achieve better results and demonstrate it was worth his effort to provide the advice.

The biggest example of this was as follows:

After a string of quarterly results that swung from massive over performance to disastrous under performance I received some advice from Frank about the importance of consistent performance – especially in a publicly traded company. So my team and I decided to attempt to set a record in the business unit for the most number of consecutive quarters of revenue and profit growth. Since my targets were a subset of his, he was always happy to advise and assist. The more quarters we achieved the more everyone was drawn in to help keep the run going.

To this end Frank helped me land some of our largest sales. When things went wrong he provided guidance, rolled up his sleeves and helped. Records were set! He approved some of my biggest increases in responsibilities and advised me to transfer from England to Florida where I have lived very happily with my family ever since.

Last year Frank wrote the foreword to the second edition of my book ‘This Is Who We Hire’ aimed at helping students gain and retain fulfilling employment. It is used as a textbook in the College of Business Administration and the Department of Psychology at the University of Central Florida.

To my student readers – I urge you to start thinking about your mentors as early as possible.

  • Add searching for mentors as another reason to network.
  • Develop the habit of making every conversation a learning opportunity.
  • Do not finish an internship without building at least one relationship that could be nurtured into a mentor.
  • Once in a job, make it a top priority to turn your direct boss into a mentor. It will change the relationship from being just another employee to becoming your boss’s protege.

Of course, critical to this is making sure you are the type of person anyone would want to mentor – i.e. being a good mentee. Remember, like any human relationship, a mentor/mentee relationship must have a balance of give and take in both directions. It can’t be all take for the mentee!

How do you do all this? Turn to Chapter Seven of your ‘This Is Who We Hire’ copies.

Summary

You will have different mentors for different purposes at different times in your career, but as a rule you should always have at least one – even as you reach senior positions.

Note: Don’t assume mentors are only necessary if you are an employee working your way up an organization. Mentors are just as important – maybe even more so – if you are planning to start your own business. Behind every successful start-up you will find multiple mentors who helped guide the way.

Look for people who are ahead of you in the direction you want to go who are clearly successful. Start by just asking for occasional advice and visibly following it. As you demonstrate worthiness of being a mentee you can take it to the next level. Help from such individuals can alter your life. They can show you doors you do not know exist – and even open them for you.

Final thought – It is also never too early to learn from your mentors how to become a mentor yourself and start helping others. Apart from ‘paying it forward’, mentoring is a great way to learn and demonstrate some aspects of leadership and develop long lasting relationships.

Thank you Frank, and all those who helped me throughout my career!

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