Mentors are primarily memories. "The notion that someone will sit down and advise you on your career is just not doable today," says Dennis Matthies, a lecturer at Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning and a consultant to Microsoft and other technology companies.
"The new business environment — fast-paced, intellectually demanding, constantly changing — makes it hard to sustain the old mentoring model. The future is all about self-coaching." Matthies points to Microsoft as one notably mentor-free zone. "People are expected to learn fast, on their own, by watching each other, and watching who's best."
What are the keys to self-coaching? First, be disciplined about reflecting on pivotal (read: painful) moments at work. "When something bad happens, don't wait for days to think about it. Immediately ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this?'"
Second, commit to getting better at activities on which you spend lots of time. Matthies calls it the "1,000 multiplier." Spending an hour a day on something for four years translates into a thousand hours — which means it's probably something that's important to your success and promotability. "In the new world of business, if we're not getting better we're getting worse."
Coordinates: Dennis Matthies firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.