“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
When I began my career, mentorship was not something I knew much about. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how mentorship works but as I dove deeper into the profession, I was surprised to learn that it is oftentimes just two people at different points in their careers connecting to improve the quality of decisions, navigate opportunities and learn from one another.
While I wouldn’t call myself an expert in this area yet (though hopefully one day I will be), I’ve found there are a few key traits to make mentorship connections meaningful and impactful:
Find the right connection – At the base of successful relationship are shared interests and values, and mentoring is no different. Once common ground is established, mentors and mentees need to connect on career and development goals to make sure they align on a professional level.
Don’t be afraid of a different perspective – Whether you are a mentor or mentee, it’s important to interact with individuals who challenge your thinking. They show you ways to approach situations that you may never thought of. Learning to understand and utilize opinions different than yours will improve your interpersonal skills. Most importantly, it may help you see the big picture from a variety of angles when you’re in charge of making decisions.
Make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial – Though mentees may often reap more benefits than mentors, it’s important that mentors clearly communicate any needs they have. At times, it’s a challenge for mentees to feel like their gratitude is given. But, there are many ways mentees can show their appreciation: whether it’s volunteering to help with a client event, offering to be interviewed by an intern, or even just simply showing up on time for every scheduled meeting.
Though experiences, titles and even direction may change throughout your career, it’s important to be both on the giving and receiving end of mentoring relationships. Mentoring can help guide you to the next stage, teach you things about yourself you may not have otherwise learned, and inspire you to achieve continued success.