Look up, listen, and learn – career inspiration is all around you

Look up, listen, and learn

Who do you look up to, professionally speaking?

We all have people we admire, role models whose conduct, attitudes and personalities resonate with us.

Regardless of whether they’re work colleagues, world leaders or other souls we come into contact with throughout our lives, these people inspire us because what they do and how they act feels right to us, and in turn influences our own professional development.

Me? I like the cut of John Borghetti’s jib. Not that I’ve ever met him, but the Virgin Australia Chief Executive has impressed me in the way he has channelled the frustration of being overlooked for the Qantas top job after 36 years of service with the national carrier into a fierce determination to transform Virgin Australia into a true competitor.

The success he’s enjoyed since jumping from Qantas to Virgin impresses not just me, but the wider commercial aviation industry too. Moreso, though, the culture he has instilled within his management team – one of hard work that brings with it satisfying results – that has since seen many Qantas executives follow him to Virgin resonates with me. Hard work does pay off.

But let’s get our heads out of the skies, so to speak; what about on the ground, in your office? Internal mentoring programs are a dime-a-dozen these days, but sometimes I wonder whether the effectiveness of some of these programs is limited by their formality. When some internal programs become more about scheduled weekly meetings and workbook modules to fill out, as opposed to being about informal, regular banter where both mentor and mentee understand exactly what’s expected without saying anything, their impact can be lessened. Forcing a mentoring relationship doesn’t work.

I’ve only ever been involved in a mentoring program as a mentor, and it was a richly rewarding experience for me and, I believe, the mentee.

Despite not having been formally mentored, I can still point to a few individuals throughout my career who, whether they know it or not, have been hugely influential in my own professional development. These men and women wouldn’t call themselves mentors in the official sense, and neither would I, but they certainly were, and are, in an unofficial sense.

They’re just ‘who they are’, I guess: good listeners, thoughtful speakers, empathetic, hard-working, successful and, in most cases, very, very funny. When I think about it more, they personify those qualities I’d like to display both professionally and personally.

For me, it has been those unofficial mentoring relationships that have proven really effective, and similar relationships exist in every office, in every city, across every industry, around the world. I think it points towards the fact that while everyone’s different, we all share the same desire for self-improvement and learning. Whether or not that improvement is achieved through a formal mentoring relationship or more subtly, is irrelevant. If both mentor and mentee are engaged, it’s a win-win.

So, what advice for the young professional looking to get ahead? I say look up, listen, and learn from those around you. Just because you might not be in an official mentoring program doesn’t mean you’re not being mentored. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Ask more questions. Learn from the habits of successful, grounded, personable, kind people, and you’re on track to become even more of one yourself.

More reading: 

Why do companies struggle to define their employer brand?
Have you thought about networking at work?
Want an awesome career? Buy a pair of binoculars
3 great questions to ask in a job interview
Cultural fit: How to match your skills and personality to a job


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