Three – the number of career mentors I’ve had so far in my young life. I feel like that is a pretty big accomplishment for someone who is just starting out in the workforce but it’s the truth. The first is my best friend’s mom and my former boss that took me under her wing when I first left my science degree in university. Second, we have my current boss who inspires me each day to be the best I can be. And finally, my third mentor – a woman I have never met before, someone I only know from her social media presence and book. Formerly @DKNY PR GIRL, she is now known as Aliza Licht.
Today let’s chat about things I’ve learned from fostering relationships with these three women and some suggestions when it comes to your finding your own. Mentorship is not always an easy thing to get into – maybe you feel awkward attending networking events to try and meet a mentor or you just don’t know where to start. One of the best things I have learned about connecting with people (whether they are new or old) is to approach the task in a setting that makes you feel comfortable. If you hate small talk, don’t use a networking event or be prepared to go with conversation starters to make you feel less awkward. Finding a mentor is the easy part – recognizing who they are and how they can help you is the real challenge.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Look around you for someone to look up to
There are tons of networking events and programs made specifically to help people find a mentor. I really struggled (internally) at networking events when I was in school because I felt incredibly awkward trying to meet new people when I had nothing to offer them in return. It is easier now that I have a position and things to talk about that I have learned but I’ve found that the easiest way to make meaningful connections and meet potential mentors is usually looking around you. Is there someone you work with that inspires you? Do you have a friend that challenges you to be the very best you can be? If there is already someone coming to mind after those two questions, you probably have a mentor-in-the-making. Now all you have to do is nurture the relationship.
- Utilize the knowledge they impart on you
My friend gave me Leave Your Mark for my birthday last year. It took exactly 4 pages for me to know this was the perfect book for me. Not only was Aliza the PR #Girlboss that I hope to one day be but she had plans to be a doctor and changed her life around just like me. Do you want to know the percentage of people who have dedicated their young life to science before realizing their calling was communications? I don’t know exactly but from the look of shock on people’s face when I tell them my story – I would guess it is quite low. Anyways, Aliza’s book (and newsletter Blackboard) are full of incredible tips that anyone starting their career should know. Sometimes your mentor won’t always have their advice published in a best seller but never forget that they have knowledge that they are probably willing to share. Learn from their successes, maybe even their mistakes, and use it to become as great as the people you are looking up to.
- Ask for support and advice/trust your gut
I had a potential job lead a while ago that I was very unsure about. It was an amazing opportunity but I was still very invested in my current role. Instead of hiding what was happening outside of the office, I asked my boss for her opinion. This is not something I would necessarily suggest with any boss but it felt like the right thing to do based on our relationship. During the conversation, she was incredibly supportive and provided advice on both sides of the decision. I realized through the talk that I wasn’t finished learning from her and ended up not pursuing it further. However, I don’t think I could have made the decision without her input. A mentor should be someone whose opinion you value and they want the best for you. Look for someone who hopes for your dreams as much as you do and don’t be afraid to check in with them when you need advice.
- Be the best you can be
Mentorship is like networking in the sense that it should be a two-way street. If someone is invested in your success, you owe it to them and yourself to become the best you can possibly be. This doesn’t mean that you have to be 100% everyday (even though that’s a great thing to aim for) but you should take their advice into consideration, try new things out, and make moves to reach your goals that they may have helped you set. A mentor can be a mix of a professional coach and personal cheerleader – use that motivation to push you forward and achieve your greatest success.
- Give them the recognition they deserve
The first person I considered my mentor happens to also be my best friend’s mom (and former boss). She unintentionally taught me more about the person I want to be than anyone I have ever met. I was in the process of figuring out my backup plan when I first started working for her. Everything that happened after I got that job has lead me to where I am today. Right before I finished my PR program, I was reflecting on how different my life was than what I had initially anticipated and she was the first person that came to mind. I made sure to make an effort to send her a note and thank her for all she had done for me during that time. One of my best life lessons is the importance of letting people know you appreciate them. Sometimes it is hard to express the impact that people make on your life but a note of thanks is a small gesture to start.
Do you have a mentor? Tell me about them below!
Until next time – K