Nobody will blame you if you're tired of the word 'Mentorship.' It had a moment—and for good reason—but soon it was gauzed in millennial-targeting and corporate-speak. Now the word might trigger anxiety about an unfulfilled relationship, an unmet career goal, or an unsent email sitting in your drafts folder. Or maybe, if you're honest with yourself, you don't really know what it means anymore.
We're here to change that, first by defining what mentorship isn't. It isn't exclusive to one gender, it isn't defined by age, and it isn't always a formal, established relationship.
Mentorship is about support. It is knowledge and insight from those with shared experiences. It is outside perspective, advice, wisdom, and sometimes, just a sounding board for your own questions.
Mentors can be anyone from co-workers and bosses to interns or someone in a Facebook group you've never met face to face, who offers you a new perspective on your career journey.
Mentorship is solidarity, and through solidarity, as we've seen this past year, we create change.
We know there is a wage gap problem. We know that women and people of color are disproportionately excluded from positions of power. We know that while we live in an increasingly interconnected world, we are also increasingly isolated.
Mentorship is about shifting the imbalance through a network of transparency and support—and it's crucial if we're going to grow not only in our individual careers but as a society.
I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from thoughtful and engaged mentors. One, in particular, is Fran Hauser— startup investor, media executive and the woman who I've turned to for years for insights. (If you want a taste of her exceptional brand of mentorship, check out her upcoming book The Myth of the Nice Girl and join her newsletter for regular wisdom.)
Mentors like Fran have been there for me through personal and professional crossovers and their advice has been invaluable.
So many dynamics are changing in our workplaces, from how we communicate to who we partner with. Top of mind at Levo is the additional layer of intergenerational complexity that arises with the arrival of the largest generation to ever hit the workforce, we millennials (did you know that at 75.4 million in the U.S., we are even larger than the Baby Boomer cohort?).
What’s more, we millennials are the first digitally native generation, and our expectations and interactions are correspondingly new and different. We find that talent across every dimension is struggling to keep up.
Mentorship is a powerful antidote to this chaos.
A great mentor is a self-discovery partner—someone who asks you questions that pull out the answers already inside of you. A great mentor is a sounding board for you. They are invested in you but understand that their role is to provide input and food for thought and that your role is to make the decisions, wherever they may fall.
Mentorship is a two-way street, and it has a halo. Both you and your mentor contribute to the relationship and learn and grow from one another. You may not know it, but you are already somebody’s mentor because you spoke up during a meeting or you asked for a raise or you have a side hustle. There doesn’t have to be a formalized relationship with a stamp on it for people to benefit.
Recently, I had the chance to lead a mentorship workshop at the inaugural Teen Vogue Summit in Los Angeles. In preparing for the inevitable question—how do I find my mentor?—I discovered the Harvard Business Review's research on the most impactful support mentors can provide. It turns out, they're most helpful, not when providing answers, but rather questions. A few, from the HBS study, include:
What is your personal mission statement?
Who do you want to be and what do you want to do?
What energizes you?
Where are you directing your energy that is helping you get there?
What is preventing you from getting there?
What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
How can I help / where do you need the most help?
These aren't just questions mentors can be asking, they're questions we can be asking ourselves.
Self-discovery is at the core of mentorship. Because really, we are all mentors—for each other and for ourselves. We already have the answers. Sometimes, we just need a little help finding them.
And in 2018, that's what mentorship—and Levo—is all about.