Oprah Winfrey once said, “I think mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship. Nobody makes it alone. Nobody has made it alone.”
Role models inspire us and provide us with a vision and aspiration for what is possible. That vision usually leads us to think bigger and take on goals that we once thought were unreachable. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have several women mentors. These amazing women were able to guide me through the challenges I would face and provided much needed inspiration allowing me the desire to aim high and set big and bold goals.
When it comes to finding someone who can guide and support us in achieving those goals, we sometimes fall short. A study by LinkedIn revealed that about two-thirds of boomer women said they were not being mentored by women — and never had been. The reason? Most women feel uncomfortable asking for mentorship. Women represent more than half of college students, but those female students are not asking for the guidance which is vital to their professional and personal growth.
Such was the case with Melissa Bippes, human resource manager at the Pioneer Adult Rehab Center in Clearfiled. “I have never really had a mentor — no introduction to the craft or society, so to speak,” she said, “A mentor would have proved invaluable in that aspect.”
Women benefit immensely from being mentored by other women. A mentor relationship creates feelings of confidence and empowerment for both women. I honestly would not be where I am today if not for mentors and role models. These amazing women delivered invaluable advice, pulled no punches when I was getting in my own way, pushed me to take risks and promoted my accomplishments and achievements. They believed when I didn’t and on my end, I listened, observed, learned and reached for those opportunities, even when my insecurities crept up on me. I continue to listen and value what those women say and teach me now. There are always new issues and challenges to navigate and I’m not shy about asking these women for help.
I happen to have found my mentors close by, but mentors are everywhere, if you know where to find them. Mentors are an invaluable resource that I think every woman, entrepreneur or corporate careered-driven person should seek out. Not only did my mentor listen to all of my worries and sometimes irrational fears, she also gave me honest feedback and the tough criticism I needed to find my path to success.
One way to find a mentor is to ask your current employer’s human resources department if there’s a mentoring or sponsorship program. Many big and small corporations have one.
If you’re starting or own your own business, tap into your industry associations or check out SCORE.org, a nonprofit association and resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration for opportunities.
Don’t limit your search to just the workplace. You can find mentors in professional associations as well as among neighbors and relatives.
Natalie Slater, a job coach for new graduates at the Ogden-Weber Area Technical College, said, “I have an extremely supportive husband — whom I would say is probably my best mentor. He is educated and knows the importance of education. We share the same interests in the professional field. I am a job coach, whereas he is a human resource director. They are coming from different angles, but they really complement each other.”
Here are a few items to consider when looking for a mentor relationship:
What is my goal? When you think about your goals, ask yourself, “What skills do I need to develop in order to reach my goals?” Then go out and find a mentor who has those skills. Also, make sure she holds a place of power in her industry. This will ensure she has the skill and experience to more quickly catapult you into achieving the same heights. Possibly you are at a place in your career where you would benefit from a younger mentor, such as a strong young woman who can help sharpen your social media and technology skills. Mentorship is a two-way street and both women should experience benefits. It’s never too early to start a mentor relationship and learn the importance of learning or giving back.
Ask yourself what you struggle with and what you would like to do better. Bippes said, “I am not a great risk-taker when it comes to my job or life. I think if I could take risks and have not take things as personally as I do, I could and would accomplish more. A mentor would have been instrumental in this regard.”
“If you have a good mentor, you work on becoming like them,” said April Bennett, a senior at Weber State and a sales assistant with Lifetime Products. “I think the best mentors lead by example … to help you set goals and ways to accomplish them (that’s what I would expect them to help me with). They are there to hold you accountable and push you to do your very best.”
Having a goal in mind before you ask someone to be a mentor or advisor will go a long way to getting the most out of your experience. For instance in my case, at the stage in my career I am looking for someone who has walked in my shoes as a marketer, or someone whose leadership style is something I aspire to emulate. The woman or people you choose should have a proven track record of success in the area in which you are seeking guidance.
Once you have identified what it is you are wanting from a mentor relationship, the next step is approaching someone and asking for their time. Don’t be shy. In the LinkedIn survey, 67 percent of the women said they had never mentored another professional because “no one had ever asked.” In reality, we all like to be asked for advice. The more intentional you are in your approach, the more rewarding and sustainable your experience will be.
Brandi Kirksey is vice president of marketing at Horizon Credit Union in Farmington.