Why You Need A Mentor

Mentors are the most important resource for success on the job. Finding them can be a task; positioning yourself to be selected as a menteeis another. Here's how to accomplish both.

wide-reaching network, including advisers who may be of a different race. It’s also important for black professionals to understand that in a corporate environment there may not be the opportunity to be mentored by other African Americans. Sometimes it will be necessary to develop bonds across racial and gender lines.

“When a person represents a majority of people in an environment, those relationships tend to be more organic,” says Mike Hyter, president and CEO of Novations/J. Howard & Associates, a multicultural consulting firm that specializes in human performance and helps train corporate leaders at companies, including The Gillette Co., AXA Financial Inc., and Sprint, to effectively mentor women and people of color. “If you’re in a numerical minority, these relationships have to be more formalized if they’re going to take place at all.”

Ed Beasley didn’t have many African American role models to turn to as he ascended the government administration ladder, but he has benefited greatly from mentors both white and black. As assistant to the city manager in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1988, Beasley’s boss and mentor—then president of the statewide city managers’ association—helped convince officials in the smaller town of Eloy to interview Beasley for an interim city manager spot. “Even though I didn’t have the title or experience, it gave me the opportunity to show what I could do,” recalls Beasley, who six months later ha
d the “interim” label removed, making him the state’s youngest city manager at age 28.

Today, 46-year-old Beasley is city manager for Glendale, Arizona’s third largest city. He is responsible for a $670 million annual budget.

One of just a handful of black city managers in the nation, he’s played a critical role over the past three years in winning deals to build a $350 million multipurpose sports facility that will house the NFL Arizona Cardinals and host the Super Bowl in 2008. He was also influential in getting the recently completed, state-of-the-art arena for the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, which will host the NHL All-Star Game next year.

During the hectic months before the 17,500-seat Coyotes arena opened in 2003, Beasley often found himself on the phone with two mentors—one a city manager in another state and the other a corporate chief financial officer in Arizona. There were public doubts about whether the arena would open in time for the start of the 2003 hockey season, whether Glendale had the capacity as a city to pull it off, and if the mixed use would actually occur. Beasley felt pressured but needed to stay focused. “[Mentors] are people who, when I get into a critical situation, I will ask for guidance,” says the Kansas native. “I could pick up the phone and say, ‘Here’s the track I’m going down. Do you see anything here I’m missing?'” Their non-confrontational questioning, both across a desk and over the phone, helped him work through his own doubts about the process.

Making yourself mentor-ready. As a sponsor to several Inroads students, a mentor in Northern Trust’s mentoring program, and a mentor for

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