Last week I tweeted what I believe to be one of the best personal growth hacks for anyone looking to advance their career at an accelerated pace. Find a mentor that is 2–3 steps ahead, which is about 24–36 months, but on a similar career path.
1) Their experience will still be relevant. The best practices and advice they offer will still be current.
2) They are far enough removed to have seen results from the key decisions you are currently facing or will be soon.
Naturally, the question of “how do I make this happen?” came from one of my followers. So I thought I’d answer it here in more detail.
Be authentically curious — One of the best things about working in a startup is the opportunity to interact with multiple co-workers in different functions of the business on a daily basis. I was able to learn about engineering, finance, and marketing just by making it a priority to engage with our team.
I learned early to ask people what surprises them most about our business and what I should look out for in the future. This helped me understand how people thought, reduced my naivete of building a startup and increased my empathy for others which in turn created deeper connections with my co-workers.
Be a magnet for knowledge- Read, write, listen to podcasts, and take online courses to enhance your knowledge base. The most important thing I came to realize was how little I knew.
However, others tend to take notice when you are learning new skills and attempting to put them to use. I was naturally given new tasks because I’d learned some simple code or wanted to apply a concept I’d heard or read about to our business.
Give back 10:1 and expect nothing in return- Try to help in every way possible and expect nothing back. Invest in other’s success and they’ll invest in yours. Mentorship is no different from any relationship, it’s a give and take. Attempt to give more than you receive and never expect the return, the right mentor will always repay the favor.
Be someone’s right hand- Find someone and be their go-to for everything possible. I did this with my bosses and it paid off. My job became very simple, to make other’s easier. This helped me gain insights into processes and decisions that I would never have gotten otherwise.
Say yes a lot- This is the opposite of how I have to operate now, but as an operator who aspired to grow into new roles, I said “yes” to almost everything that was asked of me. This doesn’t just pertain to high-level, “fun” work. It may mean working 25–50% more, but the pay off is worth it.
Always ask to be challenged — Speak up and ask for the tough assignments. You’ll get a shot you don’t deserve and you’ll have to make it happen by asking for help. Asking for help is one of the best ways to connect while learning from those who have skillsets that are complementary or more advanced. Asking to run the B2B platform at Choose is still what I consider to be one of my bigger breaks.
It’s important to remember that mentorship is a two-way street and not everyone will have the bandwidth or desire to be a mentor. However, the steps I took above made me better regardless and at the end of the day, that’s was my real goal. The right people will take notice and when they do it’ll be like adding a multiplier to your career.
Originally published at kevindstevens.com on January 10, 2018.