“Investing in others always pays dividends” – @JohnLitton
I am very blessed to have been taken under the wing of a few outstanding men and women. Without their guidance, direction and leadership I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I believe all young professionals should have at least one mentor who guides them through their career development. Someone to be the Dumbledore to their Harry Potter, the Gandalf to their Frodo, the Sebastian to their Little Mermaid, the Mufasa to their Simba, the Optimus Prime to their … um … , the fairy godmother to their Cinderella.
(I’d like to thank my Twitter followers who showed Twitter love and gave me a comprehensive list of movie mentors. You know who you are.)
The recipe for an effective mentor
After studying my own mentors, I came up with the following list of what makes a mentor so great:
- Mentors are bridges: One of the perks of having an effective mentor is their large network of industry professionals with which they can connect you. Mentors strive to not necessarily land you a job, but introduce you to helpful experts in your field (either in person or through LinkedIn) that you could learn a lot from. Mentors should bridge the gap between you and your industry of choice by helping expand your professional network.
- Mentors are perceptive: By attentively listening to their mentee, mentors learn about their mentees passions, dreams, skills and strengths, and strive to find outlets and opportunities to enhance these skills. My passion to support athletes, teams and leagues in their charitable initiatives was recognized by my mentors at the CFL. They went out of their way to give me every chance they could to call on this passion and help with the inaugural CFL Pink week.
- Mentors are approachable & accessible: When someone commits to being a mentor, it is important that they respond to the emails, phone calls, text messages and tweets of their mentees. Maintaining regular contact is key.
- Mentors encourage their mentees & celebrate their successes
- Mentors vouch for their mentees: The top three people I put on my list of references when applying for jobs are my mentors. Two are “personal” references, the other “occupational.” I don’t even have to ask these individuals if I can use them as references; they always want to help in any way they can. Good mentors are more than willing to “promote” you to potential employers, know your strengths, and are able to articulate why you are well-suited for the job in which you are applying.
- Mentors are mentees: I’ve come to realize that my Dumbledores excel in their fields, and serve as passionate, effective mentors, because they, too, have mentors they look up to, meet with regularly, take advice from, and aspire to be like.
- Mentors create mentors: Mentoring, when done right, should become a cyclical process. I recently discussed on Twitter that when someone invests their time and effort into ensuring I am successful, I’m energized to turn around and do the same for others. Good mentors inspire their mentees to be mentors.
The recipe for an effective mentee
The mentor/mentee relationship is not one-way. The more the mentee puts into the relationship, the more they will get out of it
- Show appreciation & encouragement: Thank your mentor for their efforts – being a mentor is a big responsibility. Send them thank-you emails or take them out for coffee. Just as they encourage you along your journey, show support for them! Demonstrate an interest in their talents, skills, dreams and aspirations. Even though you are younger or less experienced, your support is needed and valued.
- Follow through on connections they’ve made for you: Your mentor puts their reputation on the line each time they connect you to someone in their network. Be respectful and promptly reach out to these individuals on LinkedIn or invite them out for coffee. After you’ve done so, email your mentor to tell them about your networking progress or what you’ve learned from the person to whom they introduced you.
- Show some social-media love: Promote your mentor’s website, blog, YouTube channel or business on your Facebook or Twitter profile. Retweet links and articles they post on Twitter. They are likely already doing the same for you – be a tweetheart!
- Communicate and update regularly: Make an effort to communicate with your mentors at least once a week (even if it’s just via text message) and give them updates on your job search, informational interviews, lessons learned, recent achievements or demonstrate you’ve used their advice.
What should you look for in a potential mentor?
- An individual who works in your industry of interest
- An individual with a solid network of professionals in your industry
- An individual you like to talk to and get along with
- An individual who has known you for at least a year in a personal or professional capacity
It’s important to remember that mentoring isn’t necessarily an older individual offering guidance to a young professional. Marjo Johne from the Globe & Mail discusses the emergence of “mentoring from the bottom up.” I find this trend is becoming more common as business executives seek to integrate social media into their business strategies.
Thanks for dropping by! My hope is that each of my readers has their own Dumbledore that they can call on and, in turn, seeks to fill that role in someone else’s life. Happy mentoring!