4. What is my development priority? You can't work on everything at once, and your top priority should be addressing any "fatal flaws." Next, address any gaps between your skills and requirements for success in your job.
5. What are my development goals and how can I achieve them? Now that you know what to work on, you need to set goals to help you move forward. These goals might be dictated by your job, industry standards, or a sense of personal achievement. With self-mentorship, setting a series of smaller goals to address an overall development goal is a solid strategy. You also don't want to lose sight of your strengths as you focus on your weaknesses! Professional development "cross-training" around strategic, systematic goals is important to make sure that you're building yourself into a champion.
For example, I recently completed a 475-mile bicycle trip across Pennsylvania (check it out online at the Pedal PA Penn Central Bicycle Tour). Over the course of the trip, we traveled more than 29,000 feet uphill – a distance that rivals the height of Mt. Everest. At the outset, cycling that distance within a set time frame was a daunting task. To get to that ultimate goal, I set a series of smaller training goals that further improved my strength (endurance) while addressing my weakness (speed). I utilized a cross-training approach – some days focusing on endurance, and other days focusing on speed. Through this approach, I became a stronger cyclist overall.
6. Where can I go to learn? This is where you get to play detective. When I first moved into a global role, I realized that what I lacked was a global network. To figure out how to build one, I sought out individuals who had cultivated global networks and observed their tactics. How are they interacting with others? Whom are they reaching out to and in what circumstances? Your own power of observation and willingness to ask questions can help you access tools and role models to further your own development.
Self-mentorship is not a one-time exercise – it's something we continuously do to stay competitive and work toward being our very best at work and in life. I encourage you to check in with your mentor-in-the-mirror often and review your development goals and progress at least quarterly.
What's your self-mentorship story? Have any resources to share? Connect with me on Twitter @KatieChemist and let's keep this important conversation going. Together, we can help each other be the best we can be.
Catherine T. "Katie" Hunt, Ph.D., is director, Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies, at The Dow Chemical Company and 2007 President of the American Chemical Society. Here bimonthly column appears exclusively on ChemicalProcessing.com. Follow her on Twitter @KatieChemist