If you are a young professional, or if you have been one, you doubtlessly know those moments at the beginning of your career or a new role in which you feel a little lost, unsure, and maybe also lonely.
Talking to your friends and colleagues can always help, you never know: maybe they are also feeling the same or going through something similar. Being able to verbalize your struggles and emotions is the first step to overcoming negative feelings and learning how to best live the moment of change while making the most out of it, for both your professional and personal growth.
Sharing and verbalizing your emotions is also a crucial part of embracing your feelings and truly understanding the situation you are in. It can help you understand yourself better. Friends and colleagues who know you will for sure be able to make you feel safe and understood. This is very important, no doubt. But what if there was someone else who has been through what you are going through, someone who has already experienced “that stage”, maybe in the same working field? Someone who could provide you with the “bigger picture”, who could advise you on how to truly make the most of what you are living… Someone who could guide you.
If this sounds like something you are looking for, then it has a name: MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME.
In this blog piece, we would like to share with you some information about what a mentorship is and what a successful mentorship looks like.
I. What is a mentor?
A mentorship is a relationship between two people - usually - where the individual with more experience, knowledge, and connections (the mentor) can pass along what she/he has learned to a more junior individual (the mentee) within a certain field.
The mentorship program does not only benefit the mentee, but the mentor also benefits as she/he can lead the future generation in an area they care about and ensures that best practices are passed along.
A mentor can help you advance within your field and connect you with opportunities that you might not know existed. They do so by sharing their knowledge, helping you identify opportunities along your path, and potentially opening doors for you when the time comes.
A mentorship is a valuable tool for turning one’s vision into reality. Mentors are expected to guide and advise their mentees, helping them build a successful career or gain a solid footing within a certain organization. Typically, a mentor has one mentee at a time and can focus on shaping their trajectory.
II. How do you choose a mentor and start and mentorship programme?
Many firms/companies have their own formal systems to identify mentors for their employees and to facilitate a strong mentoring relationship. Additionally, there are several mentorship programmes launched by international associations, organizations, communities, or networks! Start by focusing on the work field you are really interested in and passionate about, and maybe do some research (Google can be your friend ;)). You could also build a mentorship on your own: you could ask a colleague who has more experience than you and with whom you have a good relationship: you trust her/him and feel comfortable enough to share your struggles, successes, fears, and goals. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a colleague; it could also be someone who doesn’t work with you, someone whom you admire and with whom you feel safe and comfortable, and, most importantly, someone who inspires you.
Or, you could join an informal professional network (for example, finding a group with similar interests such as the Femme Lead online network) or you could also join a formal professional association such as a union.
If you attended college, you could likely reach out to your school’s alumni network to see if former graduates have had success in your field. Then, reach out to see if they are willing to help you improve your skills and seek new opportunities.
You should find a mentor who has a title similar to the one you would like to have one day, or who once worked in the position you have now so that you will have a common understanding of roles and responsibilities, as well as future possibilities.
Regardless of how you find her/him, the most important thing is to choose the right person. You will know even if it’s your first time being a mentee: you will feel comfortable, and safe enough to bring every question or doubt to the table, to share your desires and goals, to open up about your insecurities and maybe even fears. It must feel like you are doing something that you feel is helping you, if it feels uncomfortable or something you rather not be doing, then maybe it’s not the right person or the right time. Generally and ideally, a good mentor possesses the following characteristics:
Extensive experience in the field you want to work in;
Has overcome relatable challenges;
Has a friendly and genuine personality;
Was able to build a credible and trustworthy career;
Must not feel threatened by empowering others;
Favorably disposed to flexible mentoring styles;
Open to learning from the mentee.
III. What is the important part of having a mentor?
Mentoring requires effort, time, patience, and commitment; but so does growing in your career!
If you are a mentee, the first thing to look for is a clear objective: specific and measurable. Of course, you must be willing and eager to learn and talk. If you are closed off, you will not be able to grow through the experience.
Mentorship is a two-way process: if it works the way that it is meant to, both the mentor and the mentee will benefit from the experience.
One day, you might become a mentor yourself! And give back the help and guidance you received. That is how you will continue to benefit and grow from this important relationship—for the rest of your life.
A successful mentorship usually has these characteristics:
- The mentor and the mentee are able to talk openly (needs are explicitly communicated);
- They both want to be involved in the mentorship programme (it shouldn’t feel like “a burden”);
- They both are open to help and being helped;
- Clear goals/expectations are set both for the mentee and for the mentor;
- A “time budget” and commitment that works for both mentor and mentee is agreed upon;
- Mentor and mentee meet regularly;
- Both mentor and mentee are enjoying the “ride”: part of building trust is getting to know each other. Knowing more about your mentor will help you better communicate and may even give you more or different ideas on how you can collaborate;
- Keep each other informed of changes in needs or career news.
IV. Some great examples...
Almost every great achiever in history has claimed that they had a great mentor at some point in their careers, for example:
· Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg: the two are said to have taken walks around Palo Alto discussing how Zuckerberg might manage and develop Facebook, as well as entrepreneurship.
· Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey: “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life, Mentors are important, and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship” Oprah stated.
· Christian Dior mentored Yves Saint-Laurent: Saint-Laurent became Christian Dior’s personal assistant, learning the secret of the haute couture and how to run the company. “Dior fascinated me. I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.”
Are you a mentee or a mentor? How was your experience? How did the mentorship help you?
We would love to read about your experience free to share your suggestions and tips for a successful mentorship!
With love and light,