As discussed in the book, 50 Billion Dollar Boss, the value and importance of mentor relationships cannot be emphasized enough. From our earliest, informal interactions learning the ropes on the playground, to managing the social interactions in high school, then college when an upperclassman took you under his/her wings, to the workplace, where more formal relationships began to be established, mentoring has always been a part of our existence. Let's face it, we all could use a helping hand, or two or three.
Increasingly, it is becoming less of a surprise to see women in positions of power as business owners or company executives. Despite these achievements, many women lament the difficulty in finding and establishing mentor relationships on both sides. While for a mentor, the ability to establish sustainable relationships tends to be hampered due to increased responsibilities and limited time to fully engage as a mentor. For a mentee or protégé, unless you are privy to certain social circles, there may be a lack of knowledge that there are positions of considerable influence and power held by women. Further, many people have “mentor vision,” in that they have a specific vision for what their mentor looks like, how the relationship will develop, and the role the mentor will play. In reality, mentor relationships can take many forms including formal or informal; career, company, or industry specific; or long standing or short-term, to name a few. Attracting and building mentor relationships can be challenging, but well worth it in the end. To land AND keep a mentor, you should:
Think outside the “ideal” mentor box. Mentors do not always come as you envision. However, they do not always have to look like you or like the same things in order for you to reach common ground. Be open to anyone willing to share information and is dedicated to your success.
Have several mentors. Don't be afraid to have relationships with a variety of people who have expertise in areas in which you would like to grow and increase your capacity and proficiency, whether it is a business mentor, a corporate mentor, a leadership mentor, a wellness mentor, or a "5-W" mentor, aka, who-what-when-where-why (they know everything AND everybody).
Build relationships that are not just transactional. There is nothing worse than people feeling like you only call when you want something. Take a genuine interest in them and what they do, not just what you can get out of them or what they can do for you. Even as a protégé, find ways to add value to the relationship or solve a problem (which also goes a long way in helping to build critical emotional intelligence and people skills). People do not mind going out of their way when they know it will be reciprocated and you will live up to their expectations.
Realize every relationship has potential. Do not discount someone as a mentor because they do not have the title that you are looking to achieve or they are not located in the corner office. While we are all looking for ways to achieve and excel, success is not always defined by how quickly we make an upward ascent.
Create a reputation worthy of mentorship. There is nothing worse than constantly hounding people to become your mentor. Rather than continually chasing people to become a mentor, create a career or project worth mentoring. You will know when the time is right to approach someone and if you are doing amazing things, people will take notice and
want to be a part of your success.