My first mentoring relationship started 18 years ago, and it’s still one of my most memorable. My boss at the time was one of those people who was totally authentic. Chriss seemed to have time for everyone, knew everything, and worked with sincerity and integrity. I looked at her and thought, “I want to be like her!” I followed my gut and asked if she’d be willing to mentor me. To this day, it’s one of the best requests—and smartest development moves—I ever made.
If you’re serious about improving and growing professionally, mentors are one of the best ways to do it. You may find them through a formal mentoring process, but I’ve found that some of the most successful mentoring relationships I’ve experienced and observed are ones that began organically. If you’re looking to find the right mentor for you, keep your eyes open for these four things.
1. Someone who has qualities you want to emulate
If there’s someone you know who has traits or skills you want to emulate, a mentoring relationship might be the best way for you to learn and add those to your repertoire.
One of the things Chriss encouraged me to do was read anything and everything I could get my hands on about our industry and competitors. She stressed the importance of knowing what was going on in our company as well as outside our walls. It was something she practiced, so of course I was on board with following her advice—and it’s always paid off for me. I remember one time, I posed a question to a guest speaker during an internal Q&A session. My question stemmed from an article I’d recently read, and the speaker was clearly impressed that I was referencing the latest information. In that moment, I looked over at Chriss. She winked at me, and I realized the value of the direction she’d given me.
2. Someone you communicate with well
One of the keys to a solid mentor/mentee relationship is being able to keep it real with one another. If there’s someone whom you communicate well with and feel you can talk to about anything or ask anything of, it might be the right person to mentor you. A few years ago, I began working with a new manager, Laura, who totally fits this bill for me. There’ve been plenty of times when I’ve either called or gone into her office and said, “I need to tell you something that stays within these four walls. I need us to have a candid conversation about X, Y, Z.” And the conversation flows from there.
3. Someone who’s a sounding board
Who’s the person in your professional life whom you go to when you need advice or want to gut check a decision you’re about to make? The person who you know will listen and offer feedback; someone who helps you see things from a different perspective. A mentor should be your sounding board. Laura’s great at this, too. She provides honest feedback and great direction, and she’s supportive of my career aspirations. It also helps that she’s wicked smart.
4. Someone that lets you be you
If you’re able to truly be yourself with someone and know you’ll be accepted for who you are, you might have a potential mentor. Once again, that’s Laura for me these days—she lets me be me! She listens to my highs and lows and then we come up with an action plan together.
Recently, I wanted to get to know some folks I work with better. Laura suggested an approach that felt right for me—engaging in a mentoring relationship with each. I followed her advice and now have an even better working relationship with those coworkers. For me, working with them in a mentor/mentee relationship helped to break the ice and allowed me to communicate better. I’ve learned about other parts of the recruiting business from each of them which has helped to broaden my skillsets.
In addition to these things, keep in mind that a mentor doesn’t have to be someone at a higher or same pay level as you. Our CEO, Tricia Griffith, has shared on multiple occasions that when she wants to learn more about what’s going on in an area of the business that she hasn’t directly worked in or hasn’t worked in for a while, she’ll seek out a mentor from that department to gain insight from. Don’t be hesitant to seek these people out! The truth is, if we’re open to it, we can all learn something from anyone at any level.
Your mentor is out there
I’m fortunate to have had valuable mentoring relationships throughout my career. And while I found mine organically, I love that I work at a place with a formal mentorship program. For some, that’s the easiest way to get started. Whichever way you decide to seek out a mentor, good luck in your search! I’m sure your Chriss or Laura is out there!