Career growth isn’t just about the ladder

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When we visualise a career ladder, we create a blueprint of success for ourselves. It’s littered with specific goals and milestones, and often lofty expectations. We make assumptions about what kinds of strength-weakness profiles the career game favours. It can be overwhelming.

Often times a vertical accession plan doesn’t consider unexpected life events. And putting an exclusive focus on climbing the career ladder, more often than not, leads to failure. When a person’s focus is exclusively on the ultimate goal – they tend to forget success doesn’t come without a knack for getting yourself in front of people with power, a shrewdness for personal branding, an insane amount of optimism, a ridiculous amount of hustle and persistence, etc, etc.

And even if you’ve got all this in the bag, you might reach the star on a career path and still find that you haven’t “made it” yet.

A typical career will take up somewhere between 20% and 60% of your meaningful adult time – so it’s deeply important we get this career map right.

But what if you step back and try to see the whole painting — every experience adds a brushstroke to the bigger picture. A ladder infers only vertical movement. But in fact, career growth depends on career development.

The guidance of a mentor can broaden your career, help you grow and offer pathways to a job with purpose, as well as a pay rise.

The best kind of masterclass

A well-mapped career path is peppered with structured learning and skill development milestones. It is in fact, what sets people up for success. Mentoring, however, offers a kind of learning that can rarely be achieved in classrooms.

The wealth of experience and knowledge a mentor brings is honed through years, even decades of practical wisdom, mastered ‘soft’ or strategic skills and even learned failures.

If you are reading this article, chances are you want to bridge the gap between being a middle manager and becoming a leader. Then take note, these precious learnings will support you to innovate instead of just execute, and be heard, but also influence.

Build a personal advisory board

Long term career success (vertical or lateral) is more skilfully achieved when you have trusted advisors to guide you through the ranks. It’s called a personal advisory board, where you enlist the support of multiple mentors. Why limit yourself to the Master Mentor model when you can tap into the experience, networks and opportunities of many mentors across multiple industries.

Think of them as a kind of personal cheer squad – who believe in your potential, keep you on track to achieving your goals, and celebrate your wins.

The express train to a promotion

If your succession pipeline is vertically driven, mentoring can be your fastest ticket to a promotion.

Let’s be real, a mentor can’t get you a promotion. But their watchful eye can give you encouragement and support to perform and to become more disciplined, making you a more likely candidate for promotion.

What’s more, they can help identify your strengths – and your weaknesses so that you can sharpen the skills and competencies needed for that sweet pay rise.

Employees who receive mentoring are promoted five times more often than those who do not. And for mentors, they are 20% more likely to get a raise than people who did not participate in a mentoring program.

Mentoring offers huge personal and professional benefits to organisations, and the people who power them. It’s little wonder that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have some type of corporate mentoring program. In the same study, 75% of executive credit their mentors with helping them reach their current positions.

But regardless of which ladder you aim to climb, mentoring holds you accountable to your career goals, and lay witness to your success. It offers a rare connection with people who will both challenge you, and celebrate you.

Start a culture of mentoring today

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Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan
Head of Marketing at Mentorloop. Observing tens of thousands of mentoring relationships, she is passionate about helping people get the most from their mentoring experience. When not writing, you'll find her brewing beer or globe-trotting.

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