Sometimes, what you’re missing is the important ingredient for success! There’s a big problem in the world of career advancement today. We are competent, educated, smart and ambitious yet somehow our big goals elude us.
The more advanced we are in our careers, the more difficult it becomes to admit that there are big gaps in our skills repertoire. When you’re the division manager, it’s hard to ask for help. This is even more true when you’re a woman. The last thing you want is to seem like you’re weak, and might need help in some areas.
So you “tough it out”, “fake it till you make it”, or whatever you tell yourself you have to do. But there’s still something nagging at you. “If only I could understand how that system works”. But who can I ask? I’m supposed to know this by now.
Imagine, though, that you had a “guardian angel” who could fill you in on the information you’re missing, or don’t understand, or wasn’t included in your technical training for this job.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know there was someone in your corner who was committed to helping you, who you trust, contributing to your success, without judging you or without ulterior motives? And at no (financial) cost to you. Here are some lucky (and resourceful) people who found just that: They identified a need or resource they lacked and then found a person who could provide that, i.e. a Peer Mentor.
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Leslie, a branding and marketing consultant to medium sized businesses landed a $ 400,000 project with a large publishing company. The work would take months and require several printed components.
Leslie had never managed such a large project. She would have to arrange for a letter of credit from the bank to pay the printers and other vendors. In the meantime, she was so preoccupied with getting this project done in time for the client’s deadline that she was neglecting her other clients.
She had no idea how to manage the finances for something this complicated. Moreover, if any of the printed projects was not perfect, she would be responsible, having already paid the printers with the bank’s line of credit, and have to re-do it at her expense.
A week earlier, at a networking meeting she had met a woman, Meredith, who was an accountant and financial advisor. Meredith had mentioned that she needed help with some sales materials for her practice.
Leslie contacted her, and they sat down and made a short-term agreement to help each other with their separate challenges .Leslie, confident she could trust Meredith having checked out her reputation and long standing relationships with loyal clients, got some good advice about managing her cash flow. Meredith got some tips on creating her sales brochures.
Gloria was an ophthalmologist who had graduated from her university program with honors, and had worked in the ophthalmology department of a major Canadian teaching hospital.
After several years, she decided to begin her own practice, sell beautiful eyewear and open a shop in her native Montreal. The only drawback was, she had no experience in retail store design or merchandising. Many of her existing patients followed her to her store, for eye exams and to purchase new glasses.
But the shop didn’t look very exciting or trendy; the window wasn’t catchy-looking enough to attract the fashion-forward clientele she was seeking to buy high-end designer eyewear.
Joann, an interior designer, had just arrived in Montreal and was trying to get new clients there. But her French was rusty, and most of the wealthy French Canadian homeowners she wanted as clients required at least a modicum of French conversation to feel comfortable with the designer.
Gloria was fluent in French; the two worked out a contract to help Gloria’s store and window design,and to get Joann’s “street French” up to speed for her new clientele.
Brenda had just been hired as the top legal counsel for Levi-Strauss, in San Francisco, one of the oldest clothing manufacturers in the country. Although the company had been around “forever”- they were one of the pioneers in many new forms of management – they embraced “ad hoc teams”, “MBWA – Management by Walking Around” and the flat, rather than hierarchical organizational structure.
Brenda had come from a large, male-dominated law firm, and left because her goal of getting promoted to partner seemed unlikely. What she found at her new post though, was her complete unfamiliarity with the style and norms of how the company functioned. She was used to the “top down” way of managing; when she held her first staff meeting, one after another the attorneys in her department asked questions, made suggestions and didn’t at all wait for her to “lead” the meeting. They had been trained in the much more“democratic”, participative style, which was the norm in the company.
Brenda realized she had to act fast. She approached Haley, an acquaintance who was a therapist (for groups and individuals) and asked her for coaching in “listening” and “facilitating” meetings. Of course she knew her desire for confidentiality in this relationship would be honored; as a licensed psychotherapist Haley would respect the therapist/client relationship.
What did Haley need? Legal advice to help her with a lawsuit in Small Claims Court (not really worth enough to hire counsel, but she still needed some basics to help her strategize her case).
Sandy, who had been working in the paint department of a big box home improvement store, had seen an increase in purchases of specialty paints, largely due to the improving construction market. She decided to strike out on her own, and open a specialty paint store in her town. She knew all about the products, and was great at advising customers.
The challenge she was running into, though, was finding, screening and managing the mostly male employees and sub-contractors she would need. Painters are usually outside of the mainstream of the employment market, many are competent and responsible, but also some are ex-convicts, have substance abuse problems and other issues.
Sandy asked George, who owned a reputable moving company for advice on this matter. Movers have similar issues when hiring staff and contractors. George was flattered to be considered an expert, and when he thought about it, he realized that Sandy had a skill that could help him. He asked her for suggestions on paint colors and brands to use to paint his moving trucks.
Their exchange of skills was not as formal as a Peer Mentor relationship, (which will be detailed in later chapters) but Sandy was able to address the main “gap” in starting her new business.[/message] [su_spacer]
As we shall see, there are many such examples of hurdles and challenges in businesses and careers, but now there can be a solution if you a) recognize what’s missing and b) are resourceful in identifying someone who has what you need.
I hope that you will find the idea of a Peer Mentor intriguing, but more important, a practical and powerful way for you to achieve your goals!
Editor’s Note: Elaina’s New Book can be found here:
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