Follow Your Mom's Advice!
Why “being yourself” is so important when searching for mentorship.
I recently attended an event hosted by University of Texas at Dallas for their sales program. After the candidate event, there was a women in sales fireside chat with Shari Levitin. She opened up the floor and answered a number of questions, along with her fellow female sales leaders in attendance. One item that we discussed that also seems to pop up in almost every career development or women in sales event that I attend is “how do I go about finding a mentor?” Since it’s come up so often, I thought I’d share my perspective and hopefully help other folks fuel their journey in finding a mentor.
Ask for help, early and often:
The whole thing with finding a mentor is that it’s on your shoulders. I believe that people want to be well intentioned and want to help others, but few people will go out of their way to do so. If you want help, you have to ask for it. And that’s ok! Advocating for yourself is crazy important and the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with asking for what you want and need.
Take the onus to seek out people that you respect and ask for their help. Finding a mentor is really just curating a relationship with someone who you solicit advice from and discuss real world challenges. They act as both a sounding board and professional sherpa.
When you do get time on the calendar to meet with your person, have a framework in mind when you do so. If you ask someone for mentorship and then fail to bring items of discussion to the table, you’re probably going to have a short, unenthusiastic conversation that’s mostly just you introducing yourself -- a nice interaction but not very productive. Remember, they’re sharing their time to mentor you, not hold your hand. Come with some ready to discuss questions and case studies that you can ask for feedback on.
Be true to your style. Take in feedback but maintain your authenticity
Finding your own sales and leadership style takes a lot of self reflection and doesn’t come overnight. Part of bringing your authentic self to work is getting to know yourself and what motivates you, what you care about, what you stray away from, and what type of people you gravitate towards. Finding a mentor is all about having the self awareness to recognize where you can expand your skill set and mature as a leader and individual contributor. While it’s important to personally get along with your mentors and have common ground to stand on, I’d suggest finding someone to mentor you that has a different perspective than you. Some of the most growth-oriented organizations that I’ve worked for made conscious efforts to fill the room with diverse thought. It’s working for companies as a whole, so why not for your own career development? Some easy ways to implement this might be finding a leader who’s great at public speaking and commanding a room if you’re more of a behind the scenes person that strays away from making waves. Or if you’re the most outspoken person in a room, get some feedback from a leader that tends to stay quiet while they process and lead discussion through questions. The list goes on and on.
Rather than finding a leader and trying to shoehorn yourself into that exact model of leadership, really take stock of yourself and your priorities and asses what you’re good at and maybe not so good at. I’ve got plenty of people that I look up to and I always have to remind myself that while I want to emulate something that “Jane Mentor” does, I’ll never be “Jane Mentor” and that’s totally ok! In my view, mentorship is all about becoming your best self, not your best version of someone else.
Pay it forward
Part of the deal with seeking out mentors is that you’re asking other people to invest their time and talents in helping you. They’re dedicating time, their most precious resource, to helping you out so be sure to thank them and then pay it forward. I’m willing to bet that there’s someone either in your org., or within your team, or in your extended peer group that has questions for you. When that moment happens and when someone reaches out, be willing to extend the same level of helpfulness to them!
Follow Brooke Bachesta on LinkedIn here!