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Choosing a mentor - Keep it real.

By Dexter Cousins | DexterCousins, Mentor, Career Management |
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I'm increasingly receiving enquiries from the network about mentoring and career coaching. This is a good thing, competition for jobs is stronger than ever. So if you want access to the best opportunities, you will have to be among the top performers in your profession. I firmly believe that finding a great mentor is the difference between a rewarding career and career dis-enchantment. 

Where I have a growing concern is the number of self-proclaimed 'career coaches,' 'mentors,' 'thought leaders' and 'evangelists' peddling their services and advice with bold claims.

Beware False Prophets!

I recently received a cold call from a 'thought leader' who promised he could turn my business into a billion-dollar business in the next three years. Another marketing consultant offered a publishing deal with the promise of a no1 best selling book (without me having to write a single word!). Regardless of whether these claims were true or not, what caused me, grave concern is that the claims were made without any understanding of me, my business, industry and most importantly my capability. One sales person even suggested I was scared of 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' because I wasn't comfortable with their recommended approach.

With so many 'experts' offering advice these days, it is becoming tough to work out whose advice you should take. Fortunately, my mentor was able to quickly give me advice and help me refocus on what really matters in my business. Having a true mentor is now more important than ever.

Sir Richard Branson is not my Mentor

When I first moved to Australia, I read Sir Richard's autobiography and had never felt so inspired. It read more like an adventure story than the life of an entrepreneur. From that point on I considered him a mentor, I would hang on his every word, read his book several times a year and follow any piece of advice preceded by the phrase 'this is how Sir Richard Branson does it.'

As I got older, I began to realise I was never going to be as successful as Sir Richard. Following his generic advice was not only dangerous, but it was also making me unhappy. I was idolising someone, believing that by copying them and following their advice I would get similar results. I was left deflated by ultimately pretending that I was someone I was not. 

Mentors are not who you think they are

During this period I was also very fortunate to be working for some of the best recruitment leaders in Australia. Greg Savage and Michael Markiewicz are hands down the two most inspiring people I have worked with in the industry. Their energy, dedication, passion and overall contribution to the recruitment industry in Australia is immense. I learned lots from the advice they shared and by watching them in action. Surprisingly, neither are who I would consider my greatest mentor.

The secret to finding a great mentor.

It wasn't until early this year that I realised what being a real mentor means. Three months after starting Tier One People I invited my previous boss, the MD of Q Consulting to lunch as a thank you - Why? He was instrumental in helping me realise my ambition of one day being my own boss and running my own business. At the end of the lunch, I thanked Phil for being the best mentor I have ever had. Here is my list of what I consider to be, the secret ingredients of a rewarding mentor-mentee relationship.

  1. My true mentor does not consider himself a mentor - indeed he regularly thanks me for the advice and learning's he has gained from working with me.
  2. We share very similar values and our moral compass' both point in the same direction.
  3. Sharing a common goal - ours was simple. To do work, our families would be proud of.
  4. I was held accountable and was always given direct and authentic advice when I needed it.
  5. My mentor lets me screw up.
  6. My mentor acts as a parent - When I resigned and shared my plans of launching my own business, Phil offered me his full support and backing - even if there was a potential negative impact on his business. This one act alone is almost unheard of in the recruitment industry.
  7. My mentor is well respected by his peers and competitors. 

Thanks for reading my personal story, I respect that everyone has their own style. But if there is one piece of advice I will share with my own kids, it is this. When identifying a mentor, "Keep it real".

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