Finding Your Career Yoda
By Rafael Herrera, Career Consultant, Online Campus Support Center
We begin our careers like Luke Skywalker, narrow-minded in the goal of obtaining success or mastery in a field, but not quite knowing what those terms mean in the context of the life we hope to live. What is the path to success? How can you master your craft? How can you become a Jedi master in healthcare, criminal justice, information technology or business?
This is where Yoda comes in. Yoda is the Jedi Grand Master, your mentor, who has ‘been there, done that,’ and learned from it. His guidance is the path to the ‘Force,’ e.g. knowledge, professional awareness, and possibly even your new career and life. You, like Luke, have just entered this foreign Jedi world, no different from anyone starting or changing his or her career, while your Yoda has years of experience with the Force.
“In a Dark Place We Find Ourselves…”
The beginning of such a search is often confusing. To quote the little green guy himself, “In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” So how does someone find his or her own Yoda?
Potential mentors are all around you, so there is no need to trek out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy to find one. The key is to have your eyes open and to search everywhere: your work, places of worship, community organizations or clubs. Each of these settings has a mix of people, each with a wealth and variety of experiences. Your Yoda could be lurking in the masses.
Online, you can search LinkedIn to find professionals in your field. Join LinkedIn’s career-related groups too. There you will have an abundance of knowledgeable professionals with whom to connect. If someone has been in the field more years than you, they could potentially be your Yoda. But that’s only part of your search.
[Luke:] “I can’t believe it. [Yoda:] “That is why you fail.”
Wisdom does not have to sound like wisdom to be valuable, and it can come from anyone. Your potential mentor does not have to be a CEO or the “greatest” to provide career insight. If they are ahead of you in your career, they have insight that you have not yet obtained, so the relationship could be a valuable one.
The next issue to decide: Is that person a good choice? Not all mentors are going to look the part, but here are some things to consider:
- Are they happy in their career?
- Would they be willing to develop a two-way professional relationship?
- Is this person someone that has a good head on his or her shoulders?
The answers your potential mentors provide to these questions can have a huge impact on the success of the relationship, so finding the answers to these questions is crucial. You don’t have to ask the questions up front, but you can usually figure them out in conversation. Then your next step is communicating your interest in them as a mentor.
“Fear is the Path to the Dark Side.”
It is scary to start a relationship with someone, professional or otherwise. But not taking action in searching for a mentor will stall your success. How do you start the communication process with a potential mentor?
Keep it natural. Asking, “Will you be my mentor?” is a lot like walking up to someone and asking if he or she will be your best friend. It’s a little weird and unnatural. The relationship has to start organically, and the most common way to have that happen is to ask questions and for advice. People love to share their wisdom with others, especially when you look to them as an expert. Show appreciation for their time, and always end your communications with, “If there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know.”
Doing this shows that you are not all about taking from the relationship, but are also open to giving. After enough conversation, the relationship will develop like any other. The advice and insight will flow as long as the relationship stays healthy. Keep asking questions, and soon you’ll be a career Jedi.
Rafael Herrera serves as a career consultant at Colorado Technical University working with students through career courses and coaching. He holds a master’s degree in community counseling from Argosy University and a bachelor’s in psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Rafael also publishes CTU’s biweekly career services newsletter.
Image Credit: Flickr/niallkennedy