Mentors can be incredibly important to our lives for many reasons. They are sounding boards and champions for our success. They are people to learn from and share with, and can become some of the most important relationships in our lives.
This past summer, I helped plan a successful Atlanta women’s event that left me and the 200-plus attendees feeling absolutely inspired. As I looked around the room that evening, I saw the women and the handful of men who attended sitting on the edge of their seats. Empowerment and energy filled the room.
As a woman who has been fortunate to have had a mentor early in my career as a financial advisor, I still find value in the guidance and support she shared. I’ve also been part of a women’s networking group for nearly seven years. What started as business networking has turned into trusted and dear friendships. We each bring a different perspective to the table, and also discuss how we can help the next generation of women by serving as mentors to them.
The word “mentor” is often used as a verb that means to advise or train someone, such as a younger colleague. I value using it as a noun, describing someone who believes in you and has your best interests at heart. A mentor is also someone who can show you a different perspective, share how he or she made it through a difficult time and illustrate how they conquered their fears.
January is National Mentoring Month, and it gives me the opportunity to reflect again on the importance of my mentor and on being one to others. However, as important as it is, finding a mentor is not something that happens automatically. Here are three steps to consider that might help you find the right mentor for you:
Establish your vision. Take some time to sit down and think about your own goals. Having a good idea of where you’re going can help you come up with key questions to ask yourself in searching for a mentor. What qualities and skills does he or she have? Are you looking for someone in your current organization who can help you grow and advance professionally, or is this person perhaps outside your organization and you’d like them to offer guidance both professionally and personally?
Be proactive. Once you have a clear vision for where you’re going and what qualities you need your mentor to have to complement that, be deliberate in seeking that person and establishing relationships with influencers through networking. When you feel you have found an ideal mentor, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and share that you’re looking to build a relationship that you hope will provide you some guidance. Be prepared for whatever response you receive. If it is no, don’t take it personally and keep looking.
Add value. Successful relationships are built on both giving and receiving, and mentoring is no different. Although you may feel that you don’t have much to offer your mentor in terms of knowledge or experience, you can provide value by supporting his or her initiatives. For instance, if he or she is speaking at an event, you could share that information with your contacts to help spread the word. As you get to know your mentor more, you will likely have a better sense of the kinds of things that would be genuinely helpful and meaningful to them.
As we journey along our paths of success, in our own ways—whether it’s emotional, financial, intellectual or spiritual, or all of them combined—consider how mentoring can make an impact. Seek a mentor or be a mentor. It starts with a relationship of trust that can help enhance all aspects of your life.
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Lisa Taranto Schiffer
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