Success Also Takes a Village: Finding the Right Mentor
by Cheryl Marks Young
What does the term “support” mean to you? The dictionary defines it as: to give aid or courage, or to strengthen. That’s a great starting point, but it’s not enough. The need for support is different for each of us, as we are all unique individuals. What you may require is different than what your neighbor or colleague requires.
When building a support network, we often turn to family and friends as our base. They can provide the unconditional love and acceptance that forms the first layer of our support foundation. But because those closest to us cannot always provide an objective viewpoint, we should extend our circles to include professional connections such as colleagues and supervisors.
And when you are ready to add a level of motivation and accountability to your support network, it’s time to begin working with a coach or mentor. Often, these trusted professionals can keep you on course to achieving your goals. The question is: How do you know which mentor is right for you?
A Step Ahead
Your support group likely includes others who are at roughly the same point in their journeys as you. A mentor or coach, however, should bring some experience and expertise to the table. The right mentor should have already checked the boxes on a similar road to self-discovery or achieved a measure of success in the direction you are heading.
Finding a Perfect Match
Effective mentors can be found in all industries and with diverse job titles. It’s more important to work with someone who “gets” you and understands what you are seeking to achieve. It’s also important to work with someone who matches you in levels of energy and overall work philosophy. If you value work-life balance, and your mentor is a veritable workaholic, you will be out of sync and your results will suffer. Your mentor does not need to be a mirror image of you, but he or she must have a coaching style that complements your priorities and goals.
A mentor should facilitate your growth and development by continuously challenging you. Look for someone who can offer a different perspective and encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. Being nudged to take a new vantage point will help you stretch in directions that can help you flourish and achieve your full potential. A mentor who guides you to break through the status quo will open you to new ideas and behaviors.
None of it Works Unless You Do
The most vital aspect of a successful mentor-mentee relationship is the work the mentee is willing to put into it. I encourage you to be clear about what kind of support you personally require, and to include several different types of mentors and coaches in your circle of support. Make sure to identify those people who can be counted on to support you as you go for your dreams.
Remember, it’s okay to ask someone to cheer you when you’re on a roll, or remind you to hang in there when you’re feeling down.