Career Setbacks, Mentoring & Presales Leadership

Sometimes a career setback can be a learning experience that sets you up for the next stage of your career. When I first missed out on a step into management, looked over for an experienced external hire, I thought I’d never be able to make that step up. 

For weeks I was down, wondering if that door was closed to me. However when I met the new manager, I decided to give them a shot. We hit it off. They quickly became my mentor, and helped me understand what I needed to do to be ready. I had a chance to see behind the scenes about what a great presales leader would do. 

What makes a good mentor? Usually a mentor is not the same as your boss. It is someone who can help you see how you can progress to your goals, will listen to you and help you become the best you can be. A mentor can be internal or external to your company. It could be someone in a more senior role, or otherwise someone who is good for you to talk to.

They gave me a chance to reflect and plan decisions that had to be made. They helped me reconsider when my first opinion on situations had some dangerous consequences. Some of these times, we'd still go with a risky option, but we'd do things to ensure that we could mitigate that risk. There was a sequence of actions (not visible to most people) that would help sure up these kinds of decisions.

Every decision you make has pros and cons. If the cons outweigh the pros, or you introduce too much risk, uncertainty or change without a clear upside, then usually making that decision is wrong! 

The next time a step into management became a possibility, I was much more mature and ready. I realised you didn’t have to be a great Sales Engineer to become a Presales leader, but you needed to want to help others become great Sales Engineers. Help new people become productive. Help people develop their careers. Most of the great work that a strong Presales leader does is behind the scenes, and will never be generally known or appreciated. I also had a supporter, who worked with other stakeholders to agree to the decision to give me a shot. 

Usually it is the times that you don't get what you want, that you have a learning opportunity. Don't push away from a chance to learn more. Think about what a setback like this might hold as an opportunity for you instead. Find yourself a mentor and keep progressing to your long term goal.