Many consider the presence of a mentor in a professional’s life as the single factor that can help to propel said professional to the next level in their career by offering essential career advice and access.
[Related: 4 Ways to Be An Excellent Mentor]
In the spirit of mentorship month, BlackEnterprise.com offers these five tips on securing the mentor that’s best for you considering your career ambitions:
- Know what you want. You’d be surprised how many people claim to want mentors but aren’t sure why. Do some pre-planning. Map out your goals and decide who or what may aid in you achieving those goals. Start from there.
- Be clear on expectations. Make sure you and any potential mentor have the availability and/or capacity to fulfill the type of “relationship” you’re looking for. Are you looking for access to a Rolodex? Someone to bounce ideas off? A listening ear? Whatever it is, make sure your mentor is willing and able to supply you with your needs.
- Stick with who you know. Many strangers are reluctant to take on mentees they don’t know. Do you know why? Because you’re a stranger. Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, says, “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.” Look right around you, first. Your ideal mentor may be closer than you think.
- If you really must ask, don’t beg—please. If you’re as qualified and as marketable as you should be, you won’t have to. Oftentimes mentor and mentee relationships are formed organically. Position yourself around the right people and work your magic.
- Be open-minded. Your mentor may not be in your exact field or doing precisely what you aspire to do. That’s okay. Guidance, good advice, and valuable feedback can come from a number of places. Don’t limit yourself.
Keep in mind that considering your current stage in your career may determine the level of necessity or benefits of having a mentor. In some cases, seeking out a sponsor, as opposed to a mentor, may be the most effective course of action.
According to President & CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.”
When up and coming, and even prior to jumpstarting a career, seeking a mentor is heavily advocated for as a means of creating a support system of inspirers, listeners, and counselors. Once in your career, getting to the next level often takes having an advocate you’ve proven your worth to that could essentially be the gatekeeper for your promotion. In comes the sponsor.
Learn more about the importance of having influencers in your corner while climbing in your career at the 2016 Women of Power Summit. Check out the “Who’s Got Your Back: Addressing the All-important Sponsorship Gap” executive leadership session with speakers Cynthia Marshall, Chief Diversity Officer of AT&T; Tracey Travis, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Estée Lauder; and Carol Fulp, President & CEO of the Partnership, Inc. to discover how to leverage your network and your own skills as you look to enter the c-suite.
Register now to secure your spot at the 2016 Women of Power Summit, March 9th–12th, Hilton Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood, Florida.
Be sure to follow Black Enterprise on social media @BlackEnterprise for Women of Power news, highlights, and updates. Use hashtag #BEWPS to stay in the loop. Please be on the lookout at BlackEnterprise.com as speakers, activities, and sessions are announced.