As you already know, the internet is chock-full of advice on how to boost your career success. While most of these are helpful (I’ve written quite a few myself), they seem to largely focus on how to find success by yourself. But what about finding success through others? Isn’t that equally, if not more, important?
That’s where mentorship comes into play. Finding the right network of people to elevate your success, while lifting them up in return, can bring your career to a whole new level.
How Mentors Can Make You More Successful
We’ve all heard the statistics before. In many leadership positions, women are a rarity. For instance, only 23 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold only 15 percent of executive positions and just 17 percent of board seats.
As someone who worked on Wall Street for a decade, I can attest that it can feel like you’re the first person to walk on the moon without other women to guide, inspire and push you. In these cases, the positive influence of a mentor is invaluable. It’s a gift that allows people to pay it forward, and those of us who have established success want to help others do the same. Don’t just take my word for it: Catalyst studies found that having a mentor not only resulted in higher compensation for women, but propelled them into leadership roles.
Here are four ways to successfully find (and keep) a mentor:
Sometimes, it can be hard to break the ice and take that first step towards forming a relationship with a mentor, but don’t be afraid to reach out.
People are often genuinely happy to help you navigate the twists and turns as you develop in your career. After all, they’ve been there. But in today’s busy world, you can’t expect them to seek you out. According to Development Dimensions International, “It isn’t because they aren’t willing to mentor; it’s that they are not being asked.” In fact, they found that a majority of women had only been asked once or twice, and one-fifth of women had never been asked.
Speaking as someone who has greatly benefitted (and still benefits!) from mentorship, being in a position now to give back to a new generation is very rewarding, and it’s one that I welcome with open arms.
Don’t Limit Yourself
When it comes to finding a mentor, don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to people in your company or your field. In fact, they might even be hard to come by. Instead, seek to build common ground with anyone whose work you respect and who you would like to learn from.
Furthermore, no one said you’re limited to one mentor. Seek out many peoples’ genius zones and offer yours in return. The greatest learning opportunities can come from the most unexpected places.
Give and Get
Think about someone knocking on your door: Would you be more likely to open it for someone offering a bowl of chocolate chip cookies or a vacuum salesman?
The best way to network—mentorship or otherwise—is to give before you get. In his book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant categorizes master networkers as “givers,” and he’s found they build much stronger and more fruitful relationships than those who see professional connections as a zero-sum game.
So offer your unique advantages when you’re learning from others. It’s not only a good life practice, but I’ve found that for everything you give, you get back tenfold. Plus, by seeing an outsider’s perspective on your own knowledge, you’ll gain some unexpected insights.
Be Very Open to Feedback
The biggest reason for getting a mentor is to find areas you can improve in, and see what you might be doing wrong. It goes without saying that this won’t happen if a mentor is scared to provide any guidance. I get it: Feedback is personal, especially if it involves your career track or success.
Say it with me: “All feedback is a gift.” Often, the feedback that makes us want to dig in our heels the most can also prove to be the most valuable. Even if the feedback is harsh, you can dismiss any perceived tone of negativity and instead take the learning opportunities from it.
Don’t color me wrong, you’ll want someone who can say “You can do it!” when things get tough. Maintaining an office full of “yes gals” may provide you with some ego boosts, but it will do nothing for your business. Meanwhile, criticism will show you the areas you most need to improve upon.
It is so important to have mentors to guide you, inspire you and help you grow in your professional journey. Throughout my career, I have always been fortunate to have several mentors who push me to dream bigger and expect more from myself. Mentors often have a larger vision for us than we have for ourselves, and their confidence inspires us to reach higher than we could have imagined on our own.
Author: Elle Kaplan is the visionary CEO and Founding Partner of LexION Capital Management, a wealth-management firm.