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Five persons your career depends on

By Karel Mc Intosh

Creating a successful career depends on an individual’s potential, competence, and drive. In many circumstances, it also depends on the people supporting the individual. We can all benefit by having support from people in our professional and personal lives. After all, it’s good to be keyed into people who are active and plugged into your industry. Similarly, when the going gets tough and the stress builds, it always helps to have a friend or family member to talk to.

The following individuals can add tremendous support:

1. A family member who can be a sounding board for issues and assist with managing home life.
2. A successful friend/ peer who can give advice and share experiences.
3. A mentor who is there for guidance.
4. A sponsor who can plug you into networks and give you access to opportunities.
5. A co-worker who is a strong team player, and will help you to achieve the company’s objectives.

Family member
Family members are often the unofficial managers of the “employee assistance programme”. They’re the ones we lay it all out for when the workplace is stressing us, and they’re the ones who can give that moral support to help us dust ourselves off and keep going. Our family members influence our temperaments, and home is often where we wind down. Especially for persons who are married or have children, the type of support you receive at home affects how you balance your personal and professional lives. It also impacts your ability to manage increasing responsibility in the workplace.

Successful friend/ peer
Networking with people in your industry is definitely something that has many benefits, one of which is simply having someone who understands your experience 100 percent. They’ve probably gone through some of the experiences that you’ve had or will have, and so trading notes becomes a huge part of this relationship. Ideally, this is a sharing, symbiotic relationship, where both people gain.

Primarily, a mentor imparts his or her knowledge, expertise, and experiences to the protégée. He or she becomes a sort of oracle, listening to your issues and giving advice. Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal. Mentors can be older than you, or be a peer in your age group.

Again this relationship can be a mutually beneficial one, whereby the protégé receives guidance, and the mentor strengthens his or her leadership skills, while keeping tabs on the experience of younger persons. When choosing a mentor, it’s recommended that you choose someone who has walked a path you’re looking to emulate, and who is willing to take the time to mentor you.

Eventually, the protégé will come into his or her own, but maintaining contact with your mentor even when you’re able to stand on your own is a true sign of the strength of your relationship. Additionally, just because you’re successful now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything else your mentor can teach you, or that you can teach your mentor.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor? While the roles of the sponsor and mentor may overlap at times, the key difference between these two is that the sponsor actively seeks to propel you to higher-ranking positions. Some sponsors show you the ropes. They can also see opportunities before you get wind of them, and recommend you to their influential colleagues in order to help you to advance, whether it be by getting a higher position or getting involved in a significant project. Sponsors have access to networks you would never have access to. Sometimes, your sponsor and mentor may be the same individual.

To get a job done well, you need “inside help”. You can’t be a success without the help of your colleagues. As individuals, we work in teams or we require the assistance of others to carry out our responsibilities. An internal network that supports you and your initiatives is priceless in the corporate world, especially when your back is against the wall, and acceptance of your ideas depends on your colleagues’ votes.

Internal and external networks are crucial to any career development cycle, as are personal and professional relationships. The five types of people identified are just some of the relationships that will help you to develop and maintain a thriving and fulfilling career.

The author is a Trinidad-based communications professional - a social media and technology enthusiast.
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