Throughout life, there are many times when we can learn from someone with more experience and more insight, someone farther down the path than we are. In a post-Covid work world, where we are working differently, faster and with more pressure than ever, mentors are critical to growing our careers.
As we came out of the pandemic environment, women may have been at a disproportionate disadvantage when it comes to growing careers, particularly as the face of work has changed. Forbes recently noted that, “Women have disproportionately lost jobs, disproportionately reduced their work hours, and disproportionately increased the time they spend on child care and household responsibilities,” following the lockdowns of 2020.
In this environment, having someone guide, help, support and inform you can be the difference between career success and job struggle.
What is a mentor’s role?
A mentor is someone who commits (volunteers) to help you in the areas you need. They are unpaid coaches, advisors and guides who serve to help you grow your understanding of the job, industry or environment, will connect you with other valuable resources, and encourage you to amplify your value.
Not everyone with experience or insight is a potential mentor. Some people don’t have time or the inclination to want to help others in their career paths. Other professionals might feel insecure about sharing their knowledge for fear you could surpass them. And still others might not be clear about how they can help you.
How do you find the right mentor for you?
It’s important to be clear about why you seek mentoring: Are you looking to find ways to assert yourself more in your work? Do you need to know more influential people? Are you changing jobs? Do your skills need uplifting? Are you feeling unsupported at work?
When you’re clear about the benefit you seek, you can then identify mentors who’ll best support your growth and advancement. When you approach a potential mentor, explain your goals and how you see them being able to support you. The clearer you can be, the better. I’ve had potential mentees say to me, “You are so successful. Will you mentor me? I know I’d learn a lot from you.” That’s a hard starting place.
Instead, when you can say, “I see that you’ve grown your career from the corporate sector to a thriving entrepreneur. I am planning to do the same and would enjoy hearing your strategies for success, what I should avoid, and how best to build my reputation to bridge that career path….” Now you’re helping the mentor decide if they’re up for the task at hand. When you approach the potential mentor, be clear on the identifying characteristics you admire about them, what work you’re willing to put into the relationship and the benefits you seek to extract. It can also help to let them know how much of their time you’re asking for, and if meetings will be in person or virtual. Again, as clear as you can be the better.Should you have one mentor or more than one?
There are no rules around how many mentors you can have or whether their value to you overlaps. You might benefit from hearing from a few mentors who’ve had similar careers or who share your challenges. The goal is to gain insight, advice and perspective and by creating a network of mentors, you’ll be establishing a supportive group of people to help you with different needs.
What makes someone a good mentor?
A good mentor is someone who is knowledgeable and generous and has a servant’s heart. They should have integrity, and their actions should speak louder than their words. Seek a mentor who’s values align with yours and who possess qualities and characteristics that you admire and would like to cultivate for yourself. If your mentor has walked a similar path to yours, perhaps even in the same company, they can guide you along the way.
A good mentor is willing to invest in you. They should feel inclined to share their time, connections, insights and guidance. If they don’t feel comfortable sharing, or they perceive you’re not going to act on their input, they might hold back.
You also want a mentor who will encourage, validate and support you. Their role isn’t simply to agree with all of your ideas. They may need to push you out of your comfort zone, helping you with the tools to be successful.
How to be a good mentee:
As the person directly receiving the benefits of mentorship, here’s how you can ensure you set the relationship up for success:
1. Stay in touch. Let them know how their advice worked out for you, if it was successful, and if you reached your goal because of the advice they shared with you. Let them know how they made a difference in your life and maintain an ongoing relationship with them.
2. Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. You’re seeking counsel and guidance on things that might feel new or foreign and your mentor can show you how to succeed. Be willing to try the new techniques or strategies they’re offering you.
3. Ask for their help. Instead of trying to impress your mentor, show your vulnerabilities. This is where they can truly assist you. When you’ve built mutual respect and trust with this advisor, let them know how you feel about their ideas and suggestions, where they might be pushing too hard, or where you’re feeling any conflict with your values. This makes the mentoring relationship more robust and valuable.
4. Filter their ideas and guidance through your values. If you encounter a suggestion that feels like a push up against your values, examine that. Discuss with your mentor what you’re experiencing to be sure you’re seeing their suggestions clearly. Ultimately, the goal (for you and your mentor) is for you to succeed. If their insight feels too far outside of what you believe is right for you, and you’ve clearly examined their idea, express the disconnect to them.
5. Pay it forward. As you enjoy the benefits of mentorship, seek to find others you can mentor. Your mentor will feel gratification knowing that the experience resulted in you helping someone else.
Many women find mentors who are business leaders, working mothers, entrepreneurs, career changers and the like. Personally, I’ve mentored many women – aspiring authors, speakers and business owners, women exiting the military, and women balancing work and their personal lives. The greatest joy I’ve had as a mentor is to see these women implement my ideas and suggestions, lean into conversations that were challenging and uncomfortable, and emerge stronger, more confident and with more of a servant’s heart.
As previously appeared on https://swaay.com/is-it-time-for-a-mentor
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