Mentor: Each One, Teach One
"How did you know which career to pursue?" "How are you able to manage financially and still travel and enjoy life?" "How do you get access to professional conferences?" "How were you able to get a promotion in just under a year?" "How were you able to buy a house at 24?"
These are questions I once asked women I saw in positions I wanted to be in. After creating my own network and keeping in touch with various women over the years, I realized that anyone could achieve anything with hard work, determination and a strong network. Yes, I am a hard worker and actively follow through with accomplishing my goals but it's my network that pushed me through during times I felt defeated. It's important to understand that no one can do it all alone and there is no shame in asking for assistance or even simply asking, "How do I start?" or "Where do I start?"
Understanding the quote below will likely empower you to drop everything and start building that successful circle of mentors.
“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” — Whoopi Goldberg
Outside of my family (#TeamKennedy), I consult with my mentors to help make the best decision possible. Ultimately, it's you that has to make the decision so you should do what you feel is best but sharing your situation and accepting feedback may lead you to the best possible decision.
Admittedly, common sense in many cases can tell you which route to take but it's a good mentor that offers their expertise and challenges you to research and evaluate each step and outcome. Also keep in mind, you don't need to know your mentors personally. Maybe you follow their journey via autobiography, news articles, LinkedIn, their blog, etc. I have a few mentors that have no idea that I'm their mentee. Sometimes I sit and consider what she (whoever that may be for you) would have done. As long as that person positively impacts your life and is in a position that you desire to be in, there is no problem with following their story from a distance. Whether near or a far, their story could indeed empower you to desire and acquire more.
It has been said that it is best to have at least 5 mentors in your circle. Each mentor offering a different perspective, sharing a different journey, overcoming a different struggle, maybe even working in a different industry but most importantly they have the knowledge and expertise to help you make the best decision while en route to success. Your success could mean landing your first gig, starting your first business, closing on your first mortgage, becoming a successful artist, etc. Whatever is important to you, you should have someone to help guide you through the dark. If you are unsure how mentorship works, don't worry I'll explain how it worked for me.
Step #1: List your goals
What is it that you want to accomplish? What goals have you completed so far? What challenges are you encountering? For me, trying to identify what I wanted to accomplish was one of the greatest challenges. At one point, I wanted to be an algebra teacher, then I wanted to be entertainment publicist then I wanted to become a CEO. Everyday my mind changed. I even entertained the idea of being a travel blogger. Today, I am a Human Resources Manager and a lifestyle blogger. If I change my mind tomorrow I know I. Could. Do. That. Too! Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have a list of short and long term goals to get you there. If you do not know, that's fine. Start listing what you love to do and research ways to earn an income from it. For example, I like writing and storytelling so I created a blog. I got the idea from others that blog about motherhood, weight loss journeys, romance, travel, etc. While I do not make money off of my blog today, that may change in the future as I explore and write more. The point is, I was inspire, made a goal to start my own and executed.
Step #2: Seek Mentors
This step could be challenging if you are not open to expanding your circle. I would suggest seeking up to 5 mentors - a mix of professional and personal. Your mentor can be your former or current professor, a conference speaker you once met, a Boston radio host who is now living the dream in NYC or even a long time friend whose life motto is started from the bottom now we're here. Regardless of their location they inspire and motivate others, show great leadership skills, set, meet and exceed goals, are respected by their colleagues and often work to perfect their skill sets. Most importantly you are learning from them. Walk up to that person (if possible). Exchange business cards. Let them know you have been following their journey and are impressed by their story. Be confident. Humble yourself, ask for help. Never assume they are too busy to assist you.
Step #3: Build A Relationship After realizing what I wanted to do and identifying the perfect mentor(s) for me, it was time to build a relationship. Years ago this step was challenging for me. Believe it or not, I was somewhat of an introvert. I always loved to party and have a good time but I felt shame in asking for help. I didn't want to be looked at as a charity case nor did I want to feel like less than. I now realize that was a weak emotion and I later strengthened that part of myself. I realized that regardless of success, people are people and we all need help somewhere. I also realized that a better me is a better you and vice versa. This means that my circle is only as strong as the person I stand next to. Working in HR is truly a difficult and underrated job. You have to be stern yet compassionate. You have to evaluate and execute each policy effectively and communicate accurately. You protect the company and the employee. It's not an easy job. At one point, I thought my mentor was overwhelming and I thought she overworked herself but as a result she earned the respect of colleagues and employees and received one promotion after another. Sometimes I'd ask if she needed anything from me and other times she'd give me random projects to complete. I had no idea how to master the projects but she took me under her wing and showed me how to perfect excel for HRIS processing, how to diffuse employee relation issues and the importance of documentation. With her leadership skills, I was able to understand many of the different components of HR: employee relations, HRIS, professional development, retention, on-boarding, etc. Since then I've been promoted twice! I later asked her to be my official mentor. Step #3: Be open to constructive feedback I strongly suggest storytelling. Express challenges you are encountering. Chances are your mentor has been there and can offer feedback to get you through it. Always remember, your way is not always going to be correct. Be flexible with your decision making. Be teachable. One of my personal mentors just decreased her debt over $10,000 last year. It was a humbling moment for me since I thought I had perfected budgeting. It's okay to ask for help and guidance. With her new budgeting technique, hopefully I will significantly decrease my debt as well. Step #4: Stay In Touch Today, my HR mentor and I speak often (google chat, phone, email, you name it!), we go out to dinner occasionally and exchange stories of situations we've handled with each other as learning experiences. Listening to each other gives us an opportunity to share feedback or possibly offer suggestions on next steps. It's important to maintain the relationship even if it is just to say 'hello'. Step #5: Each One, Teach One This summer, I have my first opportunity to be someone's official mentor. I am most excited to pass along my knowledge and expertise to a student that started where I began. Not only is it an honor to assist someone through their process, it is also our responsibility to help whenever one can. Never forget someone helped you progress. Share your expertise and knowledge. Be a positive influence and do your part to empower another so that they may empower someone else. The result of 'each one, teach one' is that we all become a part of a strengthened network.
As I am preparing for this process with my mentee, I need your help to ensure I am providing the best resources possible. What were the best things your mentor shared with you that made a lasting impression?; that helped you secure your first job?; that helped you manage your workload? Whatever it is, share it below. I'm listening...