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Getting stuck in the mud is a terrible feeling. You are powerless and there is not a neat, easy way to escape the muck. You are going to have to get your hands dirty. So much for that nice outfit you are wearing.

Vehicles are not the only things that get stuck. Careers are susceptible, even more so. When driving down a rutted wet road your chances of getting stuck are very real and most of the time, avoidable. You cannot always see the muck when guiding your career. The chances of ending up in a quagmire of the unexpected is more common when it comes to career management. Accepting the wrong job or finding yourself in a dead end because of the arrival of new technology or some other evolutionary occurrence, or even finding yourself dragged in to some internal political nastiness between warring executive silos can be just as messy as finding yourself stuck on some country road in bad weather with no one around to offer a helping hand.

We cannot always see the risks, but we can protect against potentially damaging career bogs by cultivating mentors and friends who will offer a helping hand or, more importantly, who will hold you accountable. As executive coach, Dr. Johnny Parker, has written, “You cannot know yourself or grow yourself by yourself.”

A lot of what executive coaches tell their clients is strangely similar. You know that if you have read more than four or five books from authors whose day jobs involve helping executives enhance their skills or how to avoid potentially dangerous mud holes. You will find that they promote “engaging your community” for challenging and helpful interactions in which your conventional thinking is questioned and your performance is challenged. In Dr. Parker’s model you want to surround yourself with “safe people whose objective view is to hold you accountable because this is critical to improve your life’s story. The protagonist never reaches their destiny without a support cast consisting of a mentor, coach, or a friend.”

As you go through your professional life, it is not if you will encounter a messy quagmire, it is simply a matter of when it will happen. Those who are prepared excel.

This is National Mentoring Month. What better time to offer a healing hand.