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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

How to Find Your Mentor

Mentorship is one of the most important parts of advancing up the corporate ladder. You'll often hear me talk about how no man is an island, but that's especially true for black and brown women. It's harder for us, because there aren't as many people who look like us in the positions we aspire to. But to get there, you need help. Everyone does, and mentors are key to bridging that gap. Here are my recommendations for finding a great mentor for you.

Pick someone you trust.

Mentorship are relationships. It's not a boss-employee relationship, it's a social bond that involves trust and honesty. You're not going to be exclusively talking about work matters the way you might with a boss; elements of your personal life will come up as well. So you want to find someone who you can trust to honor your difficulties and someone you feel safe discussing the real-life problems impacting your journey.

Look out, not just up.

If you're not sure who to ask for mentorship but you know your goal is to advance in the corporate world, look for someone who successfully did that. That doesn’t necessarily mean finding an executive! Go through your promotion announcement emails; who recently took a step and got to the next level? Is there someone who you think might be open to talking? They just got done doing what you hope to do next, so why not reach out?

Be intentional.

Once you find someone who's willing to talk to you and help you advance, the key next step is to be deliberate in nurturing the relationship. As the mentee, you will be doing your mentor the biggest favor if you take ownership of the setup. They're offering you time and energy, and that's great! Make it easy for them by setting up meetings, arranging lunches, and sending those follow up emails that are key to establishing a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. I promise you, your mentor isn't going to think you're being presumptuous, they're going to thank you for making it so easy for them to give you the support they want to show you.

Be honest.

The best mentor relationships involve a lot of trust, and trust requires honesty. I totally understand that being honest about your struggles with a stranger (often a stranger who you really respect) can feel like pulling teeth. But the only way to build true trust is to be straightforward with your goals and your issues, and you'll see that authenticity reflected back to you from your mentor.

Fair warning, however, that this also means you want your mentor to be honest with you, and that might not be so fun. Your mentor may give you advice that's hard to hear-- maybe you're in the wrong in a situation, maybe a position you're dreaming about is still a few years away-- and that can hurt. So be prepared to receive your mentor's honesty with gratitude or (if you can't manage that in the moment) at least polite neutrality. A simple, "I'll think about that, thank you," rather than a snappy retort because your ego is wounded will help your mentor stay authentic with you, just like you stay authentic with them.

If you want additional coaching, click here to put a free consultation with me on your calendar. We can go over your specific situation and I can give you experienced career counselling that fits your specific situation.

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