Being a mentor or mentee comes with many unique benefits, and often the relationship begins in unexpected ways with unanticipated short- and long-term rewards.
Let’s explore three short stories that highlight the interesting ways a mentor-mentee relationship might start.
Table of Contents
The Unexpected Networking Relationship Twist
Let’s step back to the great recession of 2008–2009 and imagine getting down to the final interview and meeting the other candidate while waiting in the corporate lobby. Needless to say, the other candidate got the job, but we will get to the reason why in a moment.
While it was a close decision between the two candidates, I just clicked with the hiring manager and was equally impressed with the company. So, I kept in contact in the likelihood another opportunity came up in the near future. Well, fast-forward six months into 2009 and, when reaching out to the hiring manager, a man named Chris, he informed me that he was just laid off.
This is where the unexpected networking relationship twist happened. I offered to help introduce Chris to a few executive networking groups and meet him at a meeting. Over lunch, I shared job search tips on what was and wasn’t working in the late 2009 recessionary market, and he asked a lot of questions.
We kept in touch, sharing advice and tips, and both ended up landing shortly thereafter. The unanticipated reward of offering to help as a job search mentor came a year later when, on Thanksgiving, Chris texted thanking me for my help. It’s now more than ten years later, and remembering this story still brings warmth to my heart that such a simple act of kindness to help someone in need can make such a huge difference for both the mentor and mentee.
Now, let’s get back to the other candidate that got the job. You often wonder and never know why you didn’t land the job but, in this story, there was finally closure a year later. One time at lunch with my new friend, who used to be the hiring manager, I finally asked what his deciding factor was to go with the other candidate. The answer made me smile: “I knew the other candidate from a previous job and didn’t know you yet.”
Help, I Need a New Job
Imagine this scary circumstance. My wife is sick and going through the final stages of treatment to get back to health, and, in parallel, the company is going through some tough times. My boss knows of my personal circumstance and for some reason I think I’ll be spared should there be cuts. Well, the double whammy happened, my job is eliminated, and my health insurance is immediately discontinued.
However, there were a couple of silver linings in this story. I bring up my wife’s condition to HR during the exit interview and inform them that both my boss and CEO knew but didn’t inform HR during the downsizing process. The good news is HR promptly spoke to legal and offered several paid months of COBRA to ease the transition. And now for the second silver lining part of the story, which involves a mentor.
My first thought is to reach out to my old boss, who is now the CEO at another company, to let him know and ask for any recommendations on recruiters or other companies to check out. Luckily, timing was perfect, and my old boss quickly networked me with a recruiter who is in the late stages of recruiting for a head of marketing position. Ironically my old boss’s son also works for the company, so the combo with my mentor’s recommendation and the fact that his son works there lead to a job offer in record time.
The moral of the story: all I did was ask for help, and a mentor arrived.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The writing was on the wall that sales were well below quota and the fear was this was going to result in a layoff at some point. I found a new job and upon resigning my current boss told me not to put anything in writing and that she was going to immediately talk to her boss who is the head of sales. The short of the story is that I liked the job, my boss and the company and was only leaving to ensure I wasn’t the one with the pink slip.
Fast-forward a day, and my two mentors—my boss and her boss—both informed me that something might happen but that I was valued, and they wanted me to stay. While I never took a counteroffer in the past, this was the first time, and it ended up playing out in unexpected ways.
Two weeks later, I was promoted and both mentors—my boss and her boss—were laid off along with a slew of other people. My hunch was right, but I never saw it playing out this way.
The good news is that both mentors landed shortly thereafter, and we went on working together on several consulting engagements with other companies and eventually all worked together years later at another company. And the other good news is that, while most counteroffers result in leaving shortly thereafter, I stayed for two more years and was even promoted again to lead a new initiative.
It’s important to remember that sometimes mentor relationships happen for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The key to any relationship, including a mentor-mentee relationship, is building a relationship based on trust to openly share challenges and celebrate successes.
Paying It Forward
Sometimes the simplest thing, such as reaching out to someone suffering from a recent hardship, is immeasurable. Being laid off in the past teaches you to ask for help from a mentor. It also goes the other way when someone you work with or know gets laid off. You’d be amazed by how much a simple text, call, or email can make to someone during this time to offer some kind words along with a future offer to help.
So, the next time you’re in need of help, don’t be shy to ask for help from a mentor. A mentor can be an old boss, a colleague, a neighbor, a friend, or a stranger. Some of my best mentor and mentee relationships came from someone who was once a stranger who was introduced to me through a networking introduction. You’ll be surprised that often someone, like a stranger, who has been in your shoes before finds it extremely rewarding to pay it forward by helping others.
Now it’s time for you to seek out mentor relationships so that you can write your own story. Just remember that being a mentor or a mentee often begins in unexpected ways and provides unanticipated short- and long-term rewards that you never expected.
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