I got my first CEO job at a nonprofit because the woman who hired me as her second in command told me she would invest in my development and ensure that I was prepared to take over when she retired – and she did just that. Her investment in me cut 3-5 years off of my career plan.
Thinking back, some of my best positions came as a result of a referral from a mentor or because someone advocated for me to be hired into a position where I was not a clear ‘fit’. On the other side of this is the time I spent languishing in positions where I knew I could do more – do better – but there was no one to advocate for me or challenge me. If I had those positions to do over, I would have left them sooner, even if it meant taking a ‘lesser’ job with a strong advocate/mentor.
I am someone who seeks out advice from a small group of trusted advisors. I’ve always had mentors, even if the relationship wasn’t formalized. Mentors push you. They can tell you in the kindest way possible the skills that you lack to move to the next level. They advocate for you. It is because of my mentors that I am currently a CEO who is 10-15 years younger than most of my peers.
Find a mentor. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, join a formalized program or research how others find mentors. Get a small group of dedicated mentors. You will quickly realize the results of your (and their) efforts.
I’m now a mentor to some young professionals in my field. I am quick to point out where they need work or if I think they are headed in the wrong direction. I am also fiercely loyal to them and will do just about anything to help them reach their goals. They will always have an advantage over other workers/job candidates who don’t have a strong mentor on their team.