Regardless of where or how long you have been employed, having a mentor is one of the more important resources you can have for your career. The sooner you seek a mentor, the better off you will be. Finding the right person may take time, but it’s important to find someone you respect and like to spend time with. I had the great fortune of having two extremely successful, professional women mentor me at the start of my career, and continued to have excellent mentors throughout my journey. It has made all the difference.
In an interview with my friend Patricia Valentino, she said, “When I define mentor, it’s somebody who has my best interest at heart, takes me under their wing, and helps propel me into the world for success.”
Not all of my mentors were women, but having females as my first mentors in the business world helped me a great deal. It’s not that men can’t mentor women—but it helps to have a woman’s point of view, especially in a male-dominated environment. They can be your guide and ally in many situations.
Here is one of my best pieces of advice: Find a female mentor who understands. Some time ago, I had recently changed my hairstyle—and was not happy with how it had turned out. (Just to be clear, I change my hair color and style quite often.) On this particular occasion, I wasn’t happy thanks to a bad hair day. I was set to give an important presentation, and I was concerned I would not do well. I’m not sure if it was the hair or the presentation, but either way, it was a really bad hair day.
Working with a female mentor who understood why I was upset comforted me, and she calmed me down before the presentation. In the end, I did well. Not having to explain to a man that my hair was the wrong color took away so much of my stress; her experience and empathy as a woman helped me let go of my worry. She didn’t dismiss my situation as unimportant.
Successful people learn quickly from others, and don’t do everything solo. By emulating successful people, you’ll be on your own pathway to success far more quickly. Some people insist on doing everything themselves, and while this isn’t necessarily bad, it can waste a lot of time. It’s okay to accept help, and it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative or add your own personality to a job.
Spend time with people who are enthusiastic and passionate about their success. Mentors should help guide you on a positive path and motivate you in your success. To have a great mentor-mentee relationship, you should also be someone who is enjoyable to mentor.
Here are tips I’ve learned from experience:
Be great at what you do – while this sounds obvious, it’s the most important thing you can do to get noticed.
Ask for more responsibility – have specific ideas for how you can contribute in deeper, more expansive ways. Be creative, and think outside the box.
Don’t be a wallflower – participate in all meetings, even “optional” ones. Volunteer to represent your team on important department or enterprise-level initiatives. Prepare ahead of time so you can meaningfully advance the discussion.
Promote the success of others – your generosity and openness are critical to your success and will be remembered.
Build your support network – reach out to groups within your company and outside your line of business. Learn what they do, and how you can help them succeed.
Mentors can come alongside you and help give advice in tricky situations, steer you clear of mistakes they have made, and offer support and wisdom in new experiences.