Mentoring plays an important and vital part in a young individual’s life, the words of encouragement and support making all the difference.
While some people search long and hard for a mentor, others are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. The latter happened to me. I was attending a work-related dinner, made all the more memorable by an inspiring guest speaker who spoke humorously about her work with a variety of high-profile clients and how women should all be a little bit naughty. I unfortunately missed the chance to speak to her following her speech, but reached out on Twitter when I returned home. We met for coffee a few weeks later, her advice on my career, writing, and my blog providing me with many fresh insights. The rest, as they say, is history!
The power of mentoring and the correct mentor has been in the spotlight with the recent release of Sheryl Sandberg’s uber successful memoir and advice manual, Lean In. When someone finds the right mentor it is obvious, and Sandberg is 100 percent right when she says that asking someone to be your mentor is never going to work. Forcing a connection will only end in disappointment and disaster, and as Sandberg herself says, “The strongest relationships spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”
Sandberg’s book also talks about senior men mentoring women, and how they should champion for and sponsor them. This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with, and it is so important to get a different and perhaps alternative point of view. It’s refreshing to get two opinions, and I am fortunate to be in a position where I can turn to mentors of both sexes for professional and personal advice. Any male leader serious about moving towards a more equivalent world and society should make this a priority, and actively be part of the solution for change.
It is important to reach out to potential mentors of all ages, and in industries that you feel passionate about. Seek out advice from those who are professionally where you hope to be in ten or fifteen years time. Find out how they got to where they are, how they continued their professional development, and the little things they did that maybe made an important difference.
My mentor has helped me to realize my potential, and earlier this year I was invited to be one of six guest speakers at a social media conference highlighting the role of women in new media. Despite the obvious nerves, I was so glad that I agreed to participate, finding out that talking publicly about something you feel really passionate about is actually really easy! The conference gave me the opportunity to talk and meet new individuals also passionate about social media and digital strategy, opening up new connections and new possibilities.
My mentor has demonstrated that she is vested in my professional advancement, selflessly connecting me to similar individuals and projects, helping me to make new connections, and follow new and exciting opportunities. All mentors are different, coming from different backgrounds and offering different skill sets. A successful mentor-protégé relationship will only work if it is a two-way street, each individual bringing new ideas and a consistent approach to helping and respecting the other.
My mentors have encouraged me to “lean in,” while continuing to act as champions and active references for my interests and professional progress. Without them I wouldn’t have conquered my reluctance of public speaking, traveled down new paths, or met a whole host of dynamic and exciting individuals. Finding your mentor is like finding that perfect pair of jeans or the essential little black dress—it takes time and effort, but once you’re there, confidence is yours.
How did you find your mentor? Tell us in the comments!
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