Culture January 23, 2017
Whether you’re still in academia or you’ve entered the job market (or both), you’ve likely found yourself searching for someone who can not only relate to your experience, but can help you navigate through it. If you’re a millennial, what you’re searching for is a mentor, and they’re not easy to come by.
In fact, research shows that one in five women do not have a mentor, even though 75 percent of millennials want one. So what’s a girl to do to find a deeper relationship than those with your favorite co-workers: one that is based on shared interests and career goals yet still stays professional. You’re searching for the type of person who you can look at and say to yourself, “That’s where I want to be in ten years” – and the kind of person who will try their hardest to help you achieve that goal.
So you want to a mentor. While this may not be the kind of relationship you can develop by Googling a list of nearby professionals in your field, you can’t wait around for the perfect mentor to show up on your doorstep a la Prince Charming either. According to Valerie Martinelli, sometimes people spend way too much time looking for mentors when the perfect role model is standing right in front of them. Don’t let negligible factors like age ruin a possibly fruitful mentor-mentee relationship, either: “A mentor can be your age if there is something to be gained from the relationship,” explains Martinelli. So maybe the co-worker you admire for being promoted years before usual is exactly the right match for you…even if she’s six months younger!
READ MORE: Why Every Millennial Needs a Mentor
But the work doesn’t stop when you’ve found your office soulmate. Just like every other relationship, “mentoring is two-way street,” says McAuliffe. “You cannot expect that they will know what you need or when you need it.” Instead, you need to explicitly say what you need from your mentor. In return, a mentor should follow up “and make sure the mentee has been able to handle the situation for which he or she sought advice.” In this way, your relationship should function as a give-and-take of information and support.
Statistics show that employees who receive mentoring are promoted five times more than their competitors. Mentors can offer big occupational benefits, so it’s only fair that you put some big work into your own mentoring!
Finding someone with similar interests and goals is obviously important. If your chosen field is marine biology, it wouldn’t make much sense for you to have an artist as a mentor (unless your marine biology incorporates art somehow). However, you should probably think twice about choosing someone you can look at and say, “That’s exactly who I’ll be in X number of years!”
While common ground is important, particularly as you’re establishing your relationship, it’s equally helpful for your mentor to be different than you – or to even be outside of your direct work circle. According to McAuliffe, “Being outside the situation, having a different perspective on the issue and not one of your direct supervisors allows the mentor to be more objective and see a given situation or issue for what it is and not be biased by their own emotions or role in the situation.”
If you’re a woman in a male-dominated field, having a male mentor may be especially helpful. As McAuliffe has learned in her own career, male mentors can help you see situations in a different light – and help you “navigate the waters in the male-dominant ocean of [fields like] ‘big law.'”
all I want in life is to be a mentor to young girls trying to enter a male dominated field. I just wanna show them that it’s possible.
— Adel Broussard (@adelbroussard) June 14, 2016
When you’re trying to find a similar yet not too similar mentor, you may want to ask yourselves these kind of questions: Do any of the people you work with regularly inspire you? What about members of partner corporations that you don’t see everyday? And, most importantly: What new perspective or skill could they give you?
When searching for a mentor, it’s also vital that you remember your mentor is a living, breathing human being. Don’t try to force a connection between yourself and your mentor. Instead, follow Martinelli’s advice to “enjoy the process and celebrate your successes” while realizing that no mentor can help you “grow, learn or evolve overnight.”
Don’t expect to be the only one growing in your relationship, either. Instead of only receiving one-way advice, you should also make sure you’re giving something to your mentor as well, whether its your own perspective or simple companionship. As Ryan Holiday, a strategist and writer, explains, mentorship is a “process, not an accomplishment. It’s a dance, not a contractual agreement.”
To get the most out of mentoring, both mentor and learner must skillfully manage their relationship. @CareerSystems
— Cile Johnson (@cilejohnson) January 19, 2017
When in doubt, just remember that a relationship between a mentor and a mentee has to build naturally, just like any other relationship. And, unfortunately, there’s no Tinder for career advice!
The perfect mentor may not exist. Your perfect mentor may not exist. And the perfect mentor is not any one person. As Martinelli explains: “It is possible to have a few mentors for a few different things. Having a mentor in the workplace does not restrict you from also wanting one outside of the workplace to enhance a different set of skills or to learn new ones.” The more diverse your skills, the more marketable you become – so take advantage of every opportunity (and mentor) that gives you the chance to learn something new!
After all, careers are malleable; think of your career as a journey, and your mentors as people who come along and help to make that journey a little easier, each in different ways. Not only that, but you may also discover that you have different relationships with each of your mentors. For instance, McAuliffe says, “As a young lawyer, I had one mentor who helped me with learning how to be a good lawyer – how to draft documents, how to counsel clients, etc. I had another mentor who assisted in my career and professional growth – how to handle certain obstacles in my career path, how to handle the politics of my firm, etc.” According to her, “It was not that either of those gentlemen could not have handled both roles. It was that I was more comfortable talking to one about the legal issues and the other about the career issues.”
Just like every person is different, so is every mentor. As a result, by learning from multiple mentors, you can not only develop a greater variety of skills, but you can also experience different teaching styles and mentor-mentee relationships. Just remember that every mentor is in your life for a unique purpose, and each relationship is significant in its own right.
Considering all the benefits mentorship can provide – ranging from increasing worker’s engagement by 66 percent to increasing mentees’ and mentors’ retention rates by roughly 70 percent – it might be easy to think of mentorship as a shortcut to business success. However, it’s important for you to remember that mentors aren’t there to “fix” your problems or tell you what to do.
Instead, “Mentorship for anyone is really about empowerment,” says McAuliffe. “A mentor is the person that helps you gather the tools and information needed to ‘handle’ the situation on your own.”
A1. Mentoring allows for growth between both the mentor and the mentee, as well as boosting employee retention and training. #WorkTrends
— Beyond (@Beyond_com) January 11, 2017
Mentorship can genuinely change your life ,get a good one ?
— HerRoyalYellowness? (@_AuntyE) January 14, 2017
Besides being an educated ear to listen and give input on your problems, mentors can also “help women gain new skills, network, seek advancement through promotions and/or raises, and ultimately move up the career ladder,” according to Martinelli. As a result, mentorship shouldn’t be viewed as a crutch to lean on when work gets rough. Instead, mentorship is a secret weapon you can use to become an even better businesswoman – one that is even capable of slaying the corporate world, all on her own.
Whether you’re still in college, in the middle of your first week of your first job or a veteran businesswoman, everyone can benefit from having a mentor on their side. By following these simple tips, you’ll not only find a mentor, but you’ll find the mentor(s) that will help you make your occupational dreams a reality!
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