Think of a person who has played a large role in developing your career – someone who has helped you navigate your field (or the field you aspire to be in) and has clearly invested in your future. In some cases, you might have to look no further than the person in the mirror.
While I believe in the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people and ones who consistently bring out the best in you, I’ve come to an important realization about mentorship after attending the largest women’s conference in the country:
You can be your own mentor
Of course, there are clear benefits to having a conventional mentor – someone with different experiences than you, who you might consider to be your confidante. I’m not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t be open to finding that figure as you define and pursue your goals. However, it has become far too common to just assume a person will emerge in your life as a guiding light.
“People expect an epiphany of mentorship, but don’t wait for things to happen to you… happen to them.” Sophia Amoruso, founder and owner of women’s fashion brand, Nasty Gal
A June 2015 article in Fast Company discusses the benefits of finding your inner mentor vs. seeking out an external one. There is no doubt that an outside mentor can help in ways you cannot help yourself. Whether it’s adding a new ability to your repertoire, or getting introduced to a potential future colleague – some assistance is out of your personal control. But by dialing down your inner critic and turning up your inner mentor, you’ll find that sometimes the advice you need is hidden within – hushed by your own fears or lingering just beyond your personal comfort zone.
First and foremost, if you don’t become your own personal mentor, who’s to say that someone else will put that same amount of effort into your development?
“And I’m not just talking about your career here… in every moment throughout the day you have a chance to elevate your self-worth through your own thoughts and actions.” Melissa Conrad, apprentice at Reebok
Think about moments when you’re alone in the gym, at the CrossFit box, in the dance studio, in front of the punching bag, and so on. You might not be an expert or a professional, but you have the power within you to motivate yourself to achieve your goals.
When I started CrossFit nearly six months ago, I looked to the trainers for everything. Why can’t I break parallel on an air squat? How do I find the balance to hold a handstand? What’s the right rhythm to string together double-unders? If you keep asking questions without investing in yourself at the same time, help can only get you so far. I quickly realized that when I practiced on my own time, searched video lessons online, and researched relevant articles, I became more capable of listening to what the coaches were teaching me and I advanced at a faster rate.
“By becoming my own mentor in CrossFit, I was able to maximize what I learned from my “external mentors” at the box. The same system goes for your work life.” Melissa Conrad, apprentice at Reebok
You have to take the time to refine your skill set, update your resume and cover letter, research the career steps you want to make and motivate yourself to persevere under stress. Without that personal investment, the power of external mentorship will simply plateau.
Here at Reebok, we never want to settle at a plateau. There are always ways improve, to keep pushing harder and to reach new heights. We believe the team mentality takes precedent over independent triumph. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be the captain of your own team. The first step in achieving strength in numbers is in finding strength in yourself.
Having a mentor that compliments you and your career aspirations is an undeniably powerful tool. But, whether you have that person or not – don’t wait.
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