Mentorships are powerful things. Especially as a woman in the workforce, a mentor/mentee relationship can be invaluable.
It can be a lot harder for women to find the insight, networking connections and general leg up that comes with having a mentor, as companies often lack the presence of women in leadership positions that leads to this dynamic, and many organizations fail at providing formal mentorship initiatives. All that goes to say, women are commonly left on their own to ferret out a great mentor to help them navigate through their personal and professional lives.
General mentorship qualities
So, what exactly should women be looking for in a mentor? The Harvard Business Review characterized the epitome of a successful mentor relationship as one full of "mutual respect, trust, shared values, and good communication, and they find their apotheosis in the mentee’s transition to mentor.”
The best mentors embody the qualities of understanding, trustworthiness, and honesty. The best mentors also assist the mentees in many different aspects of their lives and are able to shape their lives for the better. If you wish to become a valuable mentor figure to up-and-coming women in your field, look to embody the following qualities shared by all effective mentors:
1. They bring out a mentee’s potential.
“The key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are — not to make them more like you.” — Suze Orman
A mentor’s role is to recognize and then help foster a mentee’s true talent and potential. Oftentimes, a mentee may have difficulty seeing their own strengths and areas in need of improvement — a mentor, as an outsider, will be able to easily recognize this. Once they help a mentee acknowledge what they can bring to the table, they should constantly inspire and assist in seeing their talents, potential and goals come to fruition. However, they don’t force their own ideas or goals on their mentee.
2. They are present in the mentee’s life.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John C. Crosby
If a mentor is not active or available in a mentee’s life, how will they truly help and make an impact? A great mentor is one that will be present through the thick and thin. This extends to both the 2 a.m. calls of panic when something is wrong and the celebrations of success, no matter how small they are. No question should be too tedious for them to help a mentee with and no challenge should be too large for them to help tackle — or at least offer their network of connections that may be able to help. This mentorship should be one that carries on and adapts through the years — a great mentorship never truly has an end.
3. They provide value.
“One good mentor can be more informative than a college education and more valuable than a decade’s income.” — Sean Stephenson
Mentors provide value in a mentee’s life. They aren’t just there for looks or to add this role to their list of accomplishments. A mentor is one who wants to invest their time and effort into their mentorship duties and truly wants to help a mentee grow in their personal and professional life. The best mentors teach mentees their insight, draw from their experiences, and provide a once-in-a-lifetime education. If a mentee hasn’t learned anything from their mentor, then they must not be paying attention — or they may need to find a new one.
4. They grow with the mentee.
“Mentoring is a two-way street. The mentor gets wiser while mentoring and the mentee gains knowledge through his/her mentor.” — Marisol Gonzalez
Mentorship is a two-way street. A mentor can grow and learn just as much as a mentee can in this relationship. In fact, the most successful mentorships will be mutually beneficial. At the end of the mentorship, the mentor and the mentee will hopefully grow into two different but successfully blossomed human beings.
How to find a mentor
So, how do you even find a mentor?
Some tips include:
• Identify connections (first, second or third) on LinkedIn
• Get to know more senior professionals at networking events
• Look at leadership at your company
• Reach out to potential connections about an article they wrote or some aspect of their work you admire to cultivate a relationship before asking them to be your mentor
Lisa Crocco is a freelance writer who can be found wandering the aisles of local bookstores or the streets of different cities.