“Seek that which fans your flames.”
Anne Newsome of Rinehart Realty was struggling as a new Real Estate Agent with the first brokerage where she worked. The brokerage she decided to move to, paired her up with an experienced agent to talk to, ask questions and consult with, even guide her through her first three transactions.
The conversations helped her not only in closing home sales, but also the intangibles like anticipating customer red flags, better ways to pitching and connecting with the helpful team members.
Her advice – “Mentorship in the Real Estate industry is absolutely essential to early success, in my opinion, and I would highly recommend that new agents find a good mentor if your brokerage does not offer one to you.”
There are some great ways to identify, seek, capitalize from and grow your career and personal self, with the help of a good mentor. It starts with asking the right questions.
Who is a Mentor?
An experienced and trusted subject matter expert who is willing to offer time, a listening ear, brain pickings and much like a teacher, advice on a specific topic or more. Regardless of gender, it is the right person for your needs who acts as the disciplinarian for keeping you goal oriented.
“That magical moment when someone offers you advice to help you in your career, is a mentor moment.”
Mentors help you find answers by guiding and drawing them out of you. They make you feel that you are not alone and the work you do and the skills you possess matter.
For most professionals, their first Mentor is usually an immediate superior at work. But anyone who helps you get ahead, with ideas, tips, suggestions and feedback is a mentor in some capacity.
Do I need a Mentor?
This one is simple.
The best amongst us have room for improvement. For even the most avid solo riders, a helping hand in their career journey is certainly beneficial. Different facets of your life require different answers. The number of ways a mentor can help is varied but for clarity and inspiration in any aspect of your career, having one is a great solution to shorten your learning curve.
In design school, I worked with a teacher’s assistant who saw potential in me and encouraged me to try my hand at men’s business wear. Neither of us thought of it as a mentoring relationship and never really pursued the conversation to fruition.
Much later in life, I was fortunate to work with a boss who opened my eyes to the wonder of a good mentor. He gave me his time, his insights and his feedback, each equally beneficial to my journey.
As a Mom and an expat, I have experienced the challenges and frustrations of being a career woman and having to put it all on hold. Of feeling lost, overwhelmed, uninspired and low on confidence.
In hindsight, I’ve often wondered – why didn’t I actively seek mentors at times when I needed more than just a listening ear?
What makes a good mentor?
I am not a teacher but an awakener- Robert Frost
Mentorship comes in many forms – highly structured or completely unstructured, one time assist or lifelong involvement, formal versus casual. Nevertheless, a successful long term mentoring relationship hinges on compatibility and interpersonal chemistry.
An ideal mentor is a good listener and takes time to understand your plans and actions to probe you with better questions. Rediscovering and reinforcing the qualities you are good at, your mentor initiates self awareness and helps you find your own answers. They provide general wisdom acquired through personal experiences and are deeply invested in your growth. They help elevate your craft by guiding you to make informed career decisions. Not only do they build your confidence, but also help you improve your soft skills like networking, negotiating, communication or time management.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg
Where & How do I find a mentor?
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
We are in a beautiful place in time today. Physical barriers are no longer a constraint to get access to the world of mentors out there. It takes a while to figure out the mentors in your life. Often these relationships happen organically and propel you forward.
Maria C found her mentors – albeit unofficial – while working at an art studio. Ongoing conversations with other artists on the tools she uses and her art style, eventually led her to get deeper insights from some of them on initiating relationships with art galleries to grow her business.
Starlett Henderson of Msbhc.org who supports a mentorship program called Turtlewise, thanks her mentors Kathie Hightower and Holly Scherer. “I am a military spouse and mentorship was and is still today a key to success. We created an online community of more than 75k spouses and a speaking series that was engaging and profitable for many years. We only took the successful leaps we did because of leaders who mentored us when they saw us trying so hard . Those relationships helped us grow personally and professionally.”
It’s true. Often mentors who believe in your work and worth, find you within companies, at coworking spaces, or collaborative projects. They appreciate your passion and work and take interest in grooming you.
Whether in-person or online, dig into your own network to begin or seek introductions through mutual connections. Utilize state and local level initiatives. SCORE, SBDC, Local Chambers of Commerce, speed mentoring and niche mentoring events etc. are great places to look for mentors.
Carly Knight Art met her mentor Della Wells through the Marn Mentors program. ‘The main thing that I have gained from Della is the ability to think bigger and set my goals and horizons higher.”
A learner’s mindset lights up the invisible world of alternate possibilities.
Contrary to general belief and protocol, mentoring today has gone beyond the conventional method of seeking and meeting a person you respect – for their expertise, character and positive thinking. One just needs to awaken to the array of other readily available resources at our disposal.
As you look upwards to find a senior, successful and influential mentor, broaden your gaze. Look both ways and see the incredible world of your peers. They are shaping and validating your career choices in unexpected ways.
Peer mentoring can provide you with an accountability partner and mutual support. Learning from peers can be just as valuable as they are more in-tune with your situation, being in a similar place themselves. It’s a two way street- you are both a mentor and an apprentice.
Online Facebook or Linkedin groups, Free collaboration platforms like Maroon Oak and Mastermind groups have made it easy to seek peer mentors with complementary skills who are aligned to where you are in your process. Being in the company of peers who are living their passions can be equally motivating and inspiring as having a mentor.
Nida A posted her dilemma on the Career Networking for Women group on Facebook. Her query on how to make a career transition to a part -time job in the creative field led to numerous suggestions on first investing in creating a portfolio for a way to share her talent and get feedback on her work.
In the new shared economy culture, peer to peer networks, co-operation, collaboration and sharing resources are the way forward for growth, guidance and mentorship.
Now here is the interesting part. You probably already have a mentor in your life- a peer or family member who inspires you and pushes you to do better and dream bigger. Recognize them for what they are.
My best friend from school was my first business partner. Years later, living in separate continents, I still rely on her advice and counsel for growing my design business. I value her insights and I’m thankful for her consistent mentorship!
Social media is a fantastic tool to gather feedback, so utilize it as the friend it is. Ever see a thread on social media asking you to choose between logo options that garners a million replies? Most of us love to share or give advice. Phrase your ask genuinely and pull at an individual’s need to contribute their thoughts.
The one way street
I would also encourage you to think of books, podcasts, webinars and TED talks as forms of mentoring. On every conceivable topic, great content, advice, how to’s and secrets of success of the most influential people are now offered direct to you via these mouthpieces. There has never been a better time to soak it in. I consider it a one-way conversation with a mentor where our job is to brush up on our listening skills. They are also increasingly relevant to stay updated with dynamic information in the rapidly changing digital world.
Why do they mentor?
Many of us love to share advice, resources or lend an ear. Just ask!
Mentorship at its core has a self-fulfilling aspect – you give to receive. The opportunity to be part of a larger purpose and the gratification from seeing a mentee progress is a big payback. A formalized mentorship imparts a sense of ownership and responsibility over the mentees reputation and future. Whether a mentor intends to pay it forward or it’s for personal satisfaction, visibility or volunteer credit, mentorship also allows one to brush up on our own skills.
What makes YOU a great mentee?
Mentors matter, but often the first step needs to be yours!
Sometimes all you need to move forward is a decision and subsequent action. Lack of mentorship should not be an excuse. Additionally, when you feel the need for a mentor, there are numerous initiatives one can take to actualize the process.
Start with a list of your goals and define the skills or attributes you are unsure about or would like to learn. Have specifics drafted out in your mind – how much involvement do you need and what expertise would you care for the most. Look for people you respect, who think strategically, love teaching and sharing and have some measure of success.
Next, make a list of people a few years ahead of you, in experience and position, in either a similar field or cross industry along with their social handles. Start by consistently engaging with them as a genuine fan. Don’t be afraid to aim big in your choice of a mentor. Earn their trust and respect through sustained interaction.
Do your homework and keep your ask specific and succinct. Bring enough to the table to warrant more involvement. Have a case study, portfolio or other details ready. Note that a mentor’s job is not to provide all the answers, instead they show you a window of risk and opportunity, but the jump has to be your own.
Don’t always expect a relationship. Be flexible and look for new ways to network which don’t necessarily include face to face meetings. Sometimes the answer to a simple question or technique via email suffices and honors time constraints.
Think of what you can offer – new tools, fresh perspectives, access to a different network or your skills, a shout-out or a simple hand written thank you card?
Mary beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth advises, “Be vulnerable, open and honest about what you’re passionate about, how that is in line with what the person you’re reaching out to is doing and what you hope to learn from them. Do not e-mail a list of questions and hope for a response. I’d rather give 15 minutes of my time on the phone then spend 30 minutes typing answers to a list of questions that someone could likely find the answers to with a little digging.
Don’t necessarily ask them to mentor you as those are relationships that evolve over time. Instead if you connect with them, make the effort to keep in touch. Send thank you notes, let them know when you’ve implemented something they’ve given you input on, and reach out for further one-off insight along the way. If someone can see that you’re doing the work and acting upon their advice, they’ll want to continue to see you succeed.”
Can you mentor?
Anyone can be a mentor or mentee. If you are taking time out of your busy schedules to initiate conversations to broaden someone’s horizon, you might already be a mentor to someone else and not even know it.
Start with a collaborative mindset and offer possibilities, not certainties.
Changes in situations and mindset do not happen overnight. When you ask the right questions, people often arrive at the solution by themselves.
Look beyond the usual – seniors, people with disabilities, immigrants, financially disadvantaged students who need help too.
Sharon Rosenblatt of Accessibility Partners shares, “I’m grateful for my work mentor, Dana Marlowe. She has mentored me with communication, business, and public relations skills in my early years at Accessibility Partners, but most of my true career benefit came from her accommodations for my mental health disability. Struggling with PTSD, Dana taught me the value of being flexible and patient with myself, but still pushing me to follow through on work deadlines through the power of an alternative work schedule and a new way to do things.
Together, we created a new blog for our company, and she gave me the reigns to blog about the frontiers of mental health in technology, and its intersection with physical disability, which proved ultimately therapeutic for me as well. Her mentorship helped me find a voice and confidence that isn’t necessarily taught in college. It’s helped me move past what used to give me anxiety. With the solid footing from her encouragement, I have already exceeded my own personal expectations. I am grateful for the experience, and pleased to report we are ramping up our 2018 mentorship program, and I’ll have the opportunity to be a mentor this time.”
A Mentor is simply someone invested in your growth.
Still wondering who? Keep calm and call mom!
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
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