When you picture a mentor, you often envision an older, wiser, all-knowing individual who helps guide you through life each step of the way. He or she is there when you are making weighty life-altering decisions and able to guide you through the inevitable missteps along the path of life’s journey.
While such mentors do exist to some degree, it is more likely each one of us will encounter multiple people who serve as mentors in each facet of our lives. Each one of us has a measure of passion, talent, experience, and knowledge in many different areas, but knowing whom to call on to serve as a mentor in each area is absolutely critical to the outcome and level of guidance you will receive. It’s this simple idea that if you seek out guidance from someone who has credible experience in the area you are working on, you can garner their wisdom and propel yourself to success so much more quickly.
At Mentoring Women’s Network, we chose Pass the Torch for Women as our flagship campaign because it gives you an idea of what mentoring is all about. Passing the torch denotes the idea of that knowledge transfer which occurs in a good mentoring relationship. We chose a torch, rather than a baton, because a torch casts light. Mentors can cast light on your past, present, and future, and help propel you to success beyond what you previously thought possible.
In fact, I believe mentors can help in three critical ways. First, they can help cast light on the daily activities to help you push toward your goals. Much like a personal fitness trainer helps their client develop the consistent habits to push toward their fitness goals, a professional mentor can help you develop the consistent habits which will push you toward your professional goals. But inevitably, as you are pushing towards goals in your career and achieving new levels of success, you will be forced to step out of your comfort zone and into activities where you don’t have the basis of experience to draw from. In this scenario, you will feel like the spotlight is on you. Having a mentor who can remind you of your core talents and boost your confidence is very helpful. Finally, having a mentor who can serve as a guidepost as you make those weighty decisions in life regarding your career can be very helpful in casting light on your future and knowing you are on the right track.
As I reflect on my own life and career and what it took to go from a 16-year-old runaway to the CEO of a national rapidly growing nonprofit organization, I cannot help but reflect on what it took to get me here. Hard work? Absolutely. Hours and hours of hard work. But hours of hard work in the dark would not have gotten me there . . . It was hours of hard work illuminated by the guiding lights of various mentors that got me there. Mentors who lit my path along the way so I could see my goals and related behaviors, both good and bad, mentors who stood by me so I could step out of my comfort zone when the spotlight was on, and mentors who shone their lights on those career moves that would best move me along my professional path.
So I urge you to be intentional about what I discovered by accident and cultivate the relationships which will propel you to success. Find mentors and be a mentor to others.