Do You Need a Mentor?
I never thought I really needed a mentor until I ended up with one. In my first job, right out of college, I was taken under the wing of a more senior and experienced recruiter and I worked underneath and alongside her, happily, for about a year. She taught me a lot about recruiting and business in general, and we got along great. She imparted wisdom on me that I wouldn’t have learned in my first year of work, or even my second year and it made a positive impact on my recruitment, sourcing, my offers, and navigating the new business world in general. I didn’t really recognize this as mentorship at the time; it was just a nice person who was helping me to be successful. (Thanks Meredith!)
Fast forward to my next job; within a few months of starting in a new company, I had the privilege to be mentored by a senior manager with more than 30 years of management/leadership experience. He conveyed much wisdom that he himself had learned over the course of his career, that to this day (5+ years later), I am still wrapping my mind around much of it. The ability to “go there with someone, and bring them back” still eludes me when it comes to negotiation, but I am still working on that one! The ability to learn what someone is really saying, when their words are telling you a different story is another skill that I am perfecting based on his mentor-ship. Years of life and work experience aren’t meant to be learned fully by another individual in just a few months or even a few years, but the things that I was counseled on gain new meaning for me each and every time I draw from them. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, provide advice, and share their own anecdotal work and life stories can provide a great frame of reference and a renewed confidence to move forward. Later on in my second position, I gained some experience and guidance from a young entrepreneur, with incredible emotional intelligence in accurately judging people and situations. Both of my mentors during this time were very different people, and shaped my work and life in very different ways, but both for the positive. (Thanks Frank and Craig!)
I have been blessed in my career to have had a variety of different mentors take an interest in me and each one provided their own flavor and experience to help mold me into the manager and successful employee that I am today. How do you attract a mentor? In my case, I wasn’t even looking. I tend to be extremely curious about the things that I want to learn about, and I am very open to suggestions on how to do things more efficiently. I think I tend to attract the kind of mentor who wants to convey their knowledge and experience to someone who genuinely wants to learn.
A report released by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology found that “Mentoring has been associated with higher job satisfaction, higher promotion rates, higher future income, increased work success, and higher retention rates.”
I think everyone should have a mentor, but I don’t know if everyone is ready to be the mentee (or as we call it, “manatee”) to the mentor. I have not yet found my own “manatee” to begin to share my own knowledge with, but there’s tons of time for that. I do realize now that it is a big investment of time, wisdom, and of yourself to mentor someone. Mentors do not want to waste their time encouraging and growing someone, long-term, who doesn’t really want to learn, or isn’t open to being coached. So be open, be flexible, be curious, and be willing to learn. You just might attract your own mentor – and mine have made all the difference in my career.