“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” ~ Pete Carroll
There comes a time in everyone’s career when they need help. Whether it’s navigating a tricky situation with a supervisor or coworker, or deciding what the next step should be in your career, having a mentor or coach in your corner can help you make better choices.
Evan Pardi, a triathlete sponsored by CBT Nuggets, knows what a difference a good coach can make.
“It really comes [down] to accountability to keep me going, Evan said. “That constant force to keep me moving forward really helps me feel like I am part of a larger machine and when it comes to getting my work in, it isn’t a question. [Training is] just something that has to happen.”
But what does good mentoring actually do for you as an IT pro?
Maintaining your motivation can be challenging when you’re already overworked, potentially underpaid, and maybe even undervalued. A coach can help you rise above those challenges and maintain a positive outlook.
For Evan, part of the motivation equation has to be self-discipline.
“[Self-discipline is] everything. It’s a struggle some days and extremely easy others, but [self-discipline] is a must. Nothing gets accomplished unless you will it for yourself, to begin with,” Evan said.
“I also like to think about self- discipline as more ‘self-stubbornness.’ Be stubborn with yourself in getting things done. If it fails one day, pick it up the next. Keep at it, be stubborn [for] yourself.”
The combination of self-discipline with strong motivation from your mentor will help propel you forward in your IT career. Your coach can use motivation to create a sense of purpose for you, channeling your efforts and energies in the right direction.
“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.” ~ Derek Jeter
Good coaches help provide you with the direction you need to keep moving forward. It’s easy to get trapped in the tyranny of urgent requests and demands of the fast-paced world of IT. A mentor helps you see past the daily challenges to examine the path you’re on, where that path is leading, and how to adjust your path when necessary.
Evan appreciates how his coach works with him while walking the fine line between challenging and supporting him in his training.
“A key characteristic [for a coach] is to have an eye toward long-term goals and the attention to getting you motivated and out the door today,” Evan said. “When a coach has good balance you feel that they care about the daily grind, and, at the same time, understand where you want to go in the future.”
In the IT world, it can be all too easy to get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of daily demands. A good mentor will help you navigate daily challenges in a way that will also keep you moving forward in your career.
“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.” ~ Lou Holtz
3. Objective Observation
When you’re in the middle of a busy day, week, or life, it’s easy to lose your objectivity. A good coach or mentor can help you with reasonable observations, from an objective standpoint, about you, your behavior, workplace, career, and aspirations. Objectivity is invaluable as you evaluate where you want to go and how you can go about achieving your goals.
For Evan, the ability to transition smoothly from one sport to the next, even in his triathlon training, was a challenge.
“I had a lot of trouble running well after cycling as a triathlete. I got more and more frustrated with my struggles,” Evan said. “It took an outside, objective viewpoint to get me to pace myself better and smarter. My coach gives me a nice objective, outside view [of] my work so I can gain a better, more well-rounded perspective.”
Evan’s experience happens in IT all the time. If you’re too close to the situation, too personally invested, it can be difficult to see things clearly. Your mentor can help you reframe your experiences, challenges, and even your career in more objective terms, allowing you to make better choices.
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~ Liane Cardes
The best coaches and mentors bring a wealth of real-world experience to bear on the advice they share. They can offer advice on how to best navigate the career field, how to deal with difficult coworkers, which training and certifications will serve you best, and so on. Arguably, the single most important benefit of a mentor or coach is their experience.
In order to compete at the highest levels, Evan relies on his coach’s experience and expertise.
“Tim coached the Olympic Triathlon team in 2008 and has been named the USA Triathlon Coach of the Year. Additionally, he raced as a highly competitive athlete for years prior to coaching and throughout his coaching career as well,” Evan said.
Evan went on to say: “At Nationals in 2013, I was struggling really hard to run after biking good times because I was cramping in my stomach. I really thought I just could not run after biking, but [my coach] didn’t buy my negativity. He made me slow down a bit on the run course and focus on good form, and sure enough, I had a great race!”
Evan’s coach had the real-world experience to understand the underlying issues and work to find a reasonable solution. An IT mentor can do the same for you! Challenges in the IT industry, particularly in career development, are rarely simple. Having a coach or mentor with whom you can discuss the challenges will equip you to take the steps necessary to move your career forward.
“I’ve learned that something constructive comes from every defeat.” ~ Tom Landry
Sometimes, you just need an advocate who will give you the encouragement you need to carry on. Coaches and mentors can often see your potential more clearly than you can, which can give you the fuel to stay motivated. A good coach or mentor can help you maintain a positive outlook, even when things might not be going well.
As a triathlete, encouragement is a critical component for Evan to sustain his motivation.
“[My coach] Tim keeps me grounded in the big picture. Obviously when a result is good then we are quite happy and relish the moment; But, at the same time, we try to keep the ball ever rolling forward. Having [a coach] also helps me feel like the success was very much a team win,” Evan said.
Evan has racked up some pretty impressive accomplishments as a triathlete. He’s particularly proud of his 2015 Duathlon National Champion win, and his Top 15 finish against professional triathletes in the Ironman 70.3 Coeur D’Alene race this summer.
“[My coach] has steered me every step of the way. He has diligently written out all of my training and, by trusting his long-term vision and process, I have come a long way,” Evan said.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” ~ Vince Lombardi
Your coach or mentor plays a critical role in helping to keep you on track to achieve your goals. Sometimes, that might mean a little tough love, but having someone who will hold your feet to the proverbial fire in order to help you accomplish all that you can and live up to your potential can be incredibly empowering.
Even accomplished triathletes need a little nudge from time to time. Evan’s coach helps keep him motivated through accountability.
“Accountability plays a large role in my relationship with my coach. Knowing that someone is monitoring my progress and invested in my success really helps motivate me. Having that watchful eye of someone I trust overseeing my work helps me to stay on task and driven,” Evan said.
Accountability is critical to your success as an IT pro. You have to stay on top of new technologies, updates and upgrades, attend conferences, not to mention your ongoing training and relentless pursuit of certifications. A mentor can help you stay on track throughout your career.
“Excuses are the tools of the incompetent.” ~ Mike Tomlin
A lot of IT pros find that they rarely have to seek out job opportunities because of their connections. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters. Your mentor or coach can help to expand your professional network, which helps to broaden your opportunities for career advancement.
For triathletes like Evan, networking results in better training and conditioning methods, resources for race days, and encouragement from others who understand the challenges and passions surrounding triathlons.
And it’s no different for IT pros.
Developing a strong network of fellow technical professionals can help you figure out what training and certifications are most important for your career, discover resources (both for real-world troubleshooting and problem solving, as well as for your training needs), and create a community of like-minded professionals chasing similar career and development goals.
The strength of your professional network is directly correlated to the trajectory of your career path. More networking equals more career opportunities — and higher quality opportunities too.
“Best results are often achieved well before you need a job, by consistently networking so that when you find yourself job hunting, you have a large network to work with.” ~ Erik Qualma
So, the question here isn’t so much whether or not you’ll get a career mentor or coach, the question really should be: What are you waiting for? Take some intentional steps today to secure a career mentor who can help you take your professional development to the next level!
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