Mentors: Your Most Valuable Career Asset?
Who has influenced how you behave in a work environment?
Was it a parent or close family member providing advice you took to heart? Did a professor or community leader have a quality that you’ve strived to emulate ever since? Or maybe, you had a horrible manager reveal exactly what you shouldn’t be doing in the workplace so you portray yourself in the opposite fashion?
Regardless of the influences that have molded your workplace behavior, it is important to understand that we all have them. These mentors play a profound role in how we establish workplace relationships, manage our time, communicate with coworkers, and even the effort we put into the work we produce. Although we may greatly underestimate them, mentors are far more important in our careers than any level career-specific education we receive.
The values that you bring to work every day are likely subconsciously molded by something an influential person in your life said was good workplace behavior. Many psychological studies about moral development have indicated this to be true. The people that we view in a positive light are more likely to alter what we value and consider appropriate at any given time.
For instance, you are more likely to model the behavior of a community leader that you admired than one you didn’t. And the morals they held are likely to have infiltrated themselves into how you do things. If they valued a positive attitude over physical accomplishments, chances are that is something you value highly as well. Or perhaps your mentor took results more seriously than words; they might have imparted those traits to you.
Often times, our mentors are not even aware of the impact they have upon us. Certain behaviors such as responding to emails in a timely manner could be something you appreciate, and therefore incorporate into your behavior. It may never have been a teachable moment, but it makes a positive difference in the workplace.
Our mentors can also significantly alter our choices long after they stop being a major influence in our lives. For instance, research from Bradley University suggests that professor agendas can have a substantial impact on the workplace practices of their students. Professors that sought to instill the importance of utilizing leadership strategies and communication methods found that students were more likely to draw from the professor’s classroom leadership style than anything else to make positive changes within their workplace.
When it comes down to it, we are more likely to model behaviors than the things we’re taught; actions really do speak louder than words. Even though our mentors play such a remarkable role in forming the types of people we become in the workplace, we often don’t think critically about them.
But maybe we should.
Asking ourselves if the influential behaviors mentors have instilled in us are actually helpful in our specific workplace can be critical to success. Sure, your communication style may be effective in most cases, but is it really helping you reach your intended audience? Your time management skills may be top notch, but do they effectively balance tasks you don’t like? Taking a seriously look at your behaviors and changing them to reflect the values of your current workplace can go a long ways.
Mentors are arguably the most important influence in preparing us for a working lifestyle. They can teach us the positives and negatives of workplace behavior or alter the way we think about specific problems. Taking into consideration the role your influences are having on your work life is essential not only for your success but also for all of those around you. After all, you never know who you could be inadvertently mentoring right now.
About the author
Brittni Brown is a recent graduate of The College of Idaho; she currently works for a local marketing company. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and camping.