I didn’t decide on which direction my life was going until I was 22. Up until then I hadn’t gone to school or even considered it. I’d been told several times I’d better “marry rich”, which of course I scoffed at. I didn’t want that. I assumed I would do amazing things and a lack of education wouldn’t get in the way of that (wrong). When I started embarking on my journey it didn’t look like much of a path. It resembled something like an overgrown forest with zero trails. I had to create my own.
There weren’t any women for me to emulate myself after, and the few I knew in business seemed cutthroat. I knew I didn’t want to be like that. But I wish that there had been a woman (or two) to bounce ideas off of, to slap me around verbally when I needed it, or to tell me when I was screwing up or doing things to damage my future. Basically to point me in the right direction when I was doing something right, to tell me “you’re almost there, keep pushing”.
I had to be that driving force for myself. I had to catch myself before I fell. I had to learn the hard, hard lessons without warnings from someone who’d been there. I had to realize my head was getting too big or that I was falling into the hamster wheel of life. I had to be my cheerleader and I had to be my voice of reason.
And while I don’t regret not having a mentor, because I’m here today and love who I am, I absolutely would have loved to have one. It would have saved me a lot of trouble, help cut through the bullshit and given me a lifelong friend. In fact, I’m still interested in having a mentor of my own should the right woman surface.
5 Reasons Why You Need a Mentor (And 5 Ways to be a Good Mentee)
1. They Provide a Wealth of Experience
Mentors tend to be older than you and further along in their career. They have a ton of experience to offer you and have probably come across the majority of the situations you will come up against. Who doesn’t need/want someone in their lives who has been there? Sure, it’s important to learn from your mistakes but it’s a hell of a lot smarter and easier to learn from someone else’s!
A Good Mentee: Listens. If you don’t do anything else with their advice at least listen. They know what they’re talking about! And while you don’t have to follow all of their advice, acknowledge to them that your plans will deviate, but that you appreciate and respect them.
2. They’re an Amazing Contact
Who better to recommend you for a job or a position than your mentor? If your mentor has networking power, they most likely know someone with say-so at the company you want to work at. Not only that, but they can introduce you to potential clients, contacts and maybe even other potential mentors. Keep in mind, allowing your mentor to tap her network for you doesn’t mean you’re taking advantage of her, she’s invested in your future therefore she won’t feel used. She’ll feel helpful.
A Good Mentee: Follows up. Don’t you dare make your mentor look bad! If you’re introduced to someone or given someone to contact, you better call them, follow up with them—whatever. When your mentor connects you to other people she’s putting her personal stamp on you that says, “She’s just as good as I am.” If you piss off one of these people, flake or don’t follow up, you make her look bad and she might not be so interested in helping you anymore.
3. To Believe in You
Oh my god, there have been so many times where all I’ve wanted is someone to believe in me. Someone to tell me that they have my back no matter what and that they know I’m going to kill it out there with whatever I do. Having someone believe in you is one of the most amazing feelings ever, because you no longer feel alone. You feel like you can take on the world because you have this successful person telling you that “you’ve got this” and suddenly your hopes and dreams are that much closer.
A Good Mentee: Believes in herself. It is such a slap in the face to feel in your heart that someone has all the talent, ability and drive to accomplish anything, and they don’t. If someone that you admire believes in you then believe that they have good reasons for it and believe in yourself.
4. To Slap You Around
Okay not like literally slap you around, but sometimes you really need to be put in your place. Maybe you’re focusing too much on something that isn’t good for you. Maybe you’re half-assing your work. Maybe you really blew something or acted out of line in front of the wrong person. Maybe you quit before you should have or got fired. Your mentor is there to tell you all the things you don’t want to hear. They’re there to knock you off your high horse when you need it, and believe me, they know exactly when you need it.
A Good Mentee: Absorbs. It’s important to know your mentor isn’t being tough on you because they like it, or it makes them feel good. They’re being tough on you because they know it’s what you need. We all need a kick in the ass now and then. Take yours with grace and humility.
5. Create a Mentor Within You
A mentor is someone who genuinely for whatever reason, wants to help you. They want you to realize success and they want to be a part of making it happen. They would be thrilled as a result of their dedication to you, to have you turn around and mentor someone else. You essentially are paying it forward and that makes a mentor feel even better about helping you to succeed. Mentoring young women is so important to our society and our movement. The more we help other women see how amazing they can be, the more amazing they will be. You’ll be better for having a mentor and you’ll be a better mentor to another when you’ve had someone helping to guide you.
A Good Mentee: Passes it on. Take everything you’ve learned, the success you’ve had, the failures, the wisdom and the ignorance you’ve experiences and pay it forward. Granted you aren’t going to wake up to a swarm of women begging you to mentor them (if you do consider yourself very lucky and very successful) but to notice when another woman could use what you’ve got going for you and offering it to her—that’s all the payback a mentor needs.
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