Casper’s ninth rule of enterprise is:
No one will spend more time solving your problems than you.
There are a number of common themes that appear time and time again in good workplaces, and one is the opportunity to learn new skills. For some, learning a new skill may be simply about having the ability to try new things. For those in IT, learning new skills is not so much a luxury as a requirement. There is so much to learn, so much being changed and so many new technologies that not learning is simply not an option.
I have seen IT organisations reinforce this need to learn a variety of ways. Some will provide training budgets, some make informal learning with lunch-n-learn sessions part of the culture, and some will even send employees to trade events.
But the most powerful way to promote learning is to have a mentoring program.
One good mentor could be more informative than a college education
and more valuable than a decade's income. - Sean Stephenson
I have to admit that in my own career I have not had anyone I would call a mentor. Though I have met one or two people in my life who I truly believe could have been good mentors if I had realized their value and had made myself worthy of their time.
Making yourself worthy is one aspect of mentoring that doesn’t get mentioned very often. It is easy to see how beneficial it is to have a mentor, and I have heard the term “mentoring” thrown around an enterprise like it is a magic wand solution. But it actually takes an incredible amount of time and effort to be a good mentor, and mentees should be prepared to put in just as much (if not more) effort.
A good mentor can take you that last mile to your destination. They can show you how to build and navigate relationships, they can share with you the mentality it takes to succeed and they can explain how things really work. This is the kind of knowledge that you won’t find in a text book, and only comes from experience.
Getting to that last mile requires a lot of hard work, though, and it is the kind of hard work that a mentee has to be willing to do on their own. It involves a lot of study, practice, volunteer work, pet projects and failure, and it all has to be done without someone in your corner cheering you on.
Not having made the time to make myself worthy of those rare individuals whose mentoring could truly have changed my life is something I regret, because it is only years later that I realize just how much I could have learned from them.
Don’t take a mentor for granted. It is such an incredible privilege to have a true mentor, and you’ll only get a few opportunities in life to build that kind of relationship. But always keep in mind that no one, and especially not a respected mentor, will devote more time to improving your situation than you will.