MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important to have a mentor? is written by Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual.
One common denominator among successful people is their team. They surround themselves with people from whom they can learn, teach, and gain valuable insight. I’ve discovered, however, that this “dream team” doesn’t need to be static in size or limited to only people I’ve met.
As you grow professionally, you will notice a variance in the number of skills you’ll actively work to build. This quarter you may focus more on managerial skills, while the next it’s a combination of pitching, fundraising, and public speaking. So who says your mentor has to be a one-stop-shop for all of these skills? I prefer the idea of surrounding yourself with a variety of mentors who are experts in different areas. They don’t have to be good at everything to be considered a great mentor. You need someone who’s mastered one or several of the skills you want to fine-tune. By articulating and setting expectations from each of your mentors, you’ll foster more manageable relationships.
In fact, many of my “mentors” are actually deceased philosophers whose teachings live on in their memoirs, biographies, and texts. For instance, Benjamin Franklin organized a group of twelve close friends (the Junto) who met regularly to debate a number of topics stemming from morals to business affairs. This is also known as a mastermind group and has been used by intellectuals dating back to Alexander the Great. I’ve always loved this idea and follow it to this day. I regularly meet with close friends–each successful in their own regard–to have an honest conversation about our personal and professional problems.
So if you’re struggling to find a mentor, remember this: you don’t have to actually know your mentors in order to learn from them. Throw out the traditional mindset of a mentor and think outside the box. Find a person who is an expert in the field in which you want to grow and begin research. I’m confident you’ll find someone you can learn from–even if they haven’t been around in 500 years.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important to have a mentor?
Here’s one reason why you don’t need a mentor by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.
The do’s and don’ts of an effective mentor by Shannon Schuyler, leader of corporate responsibility at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Why you’re never too old to have a mentor by Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, national managing partner of corporate responsibility at KPMG.
How men can step up and help women get ahead at work by Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University.
When it comes to mentors, the more the merrier by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Are you qualified to be a mentor? by Sarah Watson, chief strategy officer of BBH N.Y.
Is mentoring necessary for career advancement? by Teresa Briggs, vice chairman and west region managing partner at Deloitte.
Do all employees benefit from having a mentor? by Dawn Zier, president and CEO of Nutrisystem.
4 things your boss won’t tell you (but a mentor will) by Penny Herscher CEO of FirstRain.
What qualities make a good (and bad) mentor? by Karen Tegan Padir, president of application development at Progress Software.
Why mentoring is unlike any other professional relationship by Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.
Why you don’t need a mentor to be successful by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young.
What qualities should you look for in a mentor? by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
4 things to consider before choosing a mentor by Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership.
The most important quality a mentor should have by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
Why women are more likely to be mentors by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.
3 reasons every employee needs a mentor by Sally Blount, Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Why this AOL executive chooses her mentors — wisely by Allie Kline, CMO of AOL, Inc.