During my career, having a mentor has proven to be a fantastic experience, providing me with support, feedback, advice and inspiration. On different occasions I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences with mentorship with colleagues and friends. I’ve found mentorship as an opportunity to offer guidance on seeking a mentor and making the most out of this unique relationship.
I share one of my conversations with you here. It’s a nice, sunny afternoon and I’m having coffee with friends in a terrace.
[Friend 1]: I had my 1:1 with my boss yesterday and she told me I should find a mentor. Do you all have one?
[Friend 2]: Yes, I do! I’ve had a mentor for quite some time, actually.
[Maite]: Same here! I have a mentor and I mentor people myself.
[Friend 1]: Ah! You can give me some advice then! Who do you think I should ask to be my mentor?
[Maite]: I would suggest you take a step back: what you are you expecting from your mentor? What are you looking to get out of mentorship?
[Friend 1]: That’s a good point. I need to define what I want to get out of this. How specific should I be? Should I have goals and timelines?
[Maite]: Mentoring is meant to be much more flexible than coaching. So it’s important that you know what you are looking for, but you don’t need a specific goal or a timeline. It’s much more about development than performance. My best experiences in mentoring have been discovering paths I would have never considered simply because I was open and did not have an agenda prepared. I would say plan, but not plan too much. Remain open and flexible.
[Friend 2]: But be sure you choose a mentor you feel you can trust, otherwise it will not work out.
[Maite]: I totally agree. I have had many mentors throughout my career, now I have just two. It’s important that you and your mentor share the same values, have a genuine connection, and you feel you can trust them.
[Friend 1]: What were you looking for when searching for a mentor, Maite?
[Maite]: Sometimes I sought mentors with experience in certain areas who could guide me in a new role or scope. For example, I needed someone to guide me when I transitioned from an individual contributor to a manager. I needed someone to guide me on how to run a team, for example. On the other hand, during my MBA I had a mentor whose career was totally unrelated to mine. It was a wonderful experience for me as she helped me view things from angles I had never considered. Lately, I’ve enjoyed having mentors who are different than me. Someone who challenges my ideas, suggests alternative ideas, and who pushes me out of my comfort zone.
[Friend 1]: And why would someone want to be a mentor? The benefit for the mentee is obvious, but what about for the mentor?
[Friend 2]: Have you heard that quote from Phil Collins that says: “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”?
[Maite]: Mentors always learn! I’ve mentored people at work and through this I get to experience different ways of working, solving issues, and handling complex situations. Currently I’m mentoring students in the International MBA program at IE Business School through the Women in Tech Mentoring Program. Discussing career choices, study programs, and challenges with these students has been very refreshing and makes me consider how I make my own decisions. I would recommend it.
[Friend 1]: I have to say I am much more motivated to get into this now! Where would you suggest I start?
[Maite]: It’s crucial that you remain motivated throughout this process. Mentoring requires dedication; not only during your time together, but also following discussions to make sure you both follow up on what’s been agreed upon. As a start, I would recommend reading an article from Harvard Business Review: CEOs Need Mentors Too. You can also check out the Multiplier Effect page to read on the experiences of Cisco bloggers on mentoring and sponsorship with someone different from themselves.