Many women feel lost and alone as they tackle the challenges of the professional world. And it’s not surprising.

Throughout school and college, we’re often supported by teachers, professors and classmates. They encourage us to dream, grow and succeed. But when we hit “the real world”, where does that cheer squad go?

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Community, connection and shared experiences can make all the difference in your career journey. That’s why we love hearing about women embracing mentorship.

So let’s look at what mentorship is, how to find a mentor and how to make the most of it.

Why have a mentor?

A mentor is like a coach, therapist, friend and cheerleader all rolled into one. But for your career.

Essentially, it’s someone further along in their career than you. They agree to spend time passing on their learnings, wisdom and guidance to help you grow professionally. The idea is to connect regularly and discuss your career challenges, goals and successes. Your mentor can offer a powerful shift of perspective, and advice on how to level up your career and win at life (so to speak).

There are lots of benefits to having a mentor. To name a few…

They hold you accountable

You can try to hold yourself accountable in your career. But having someone constantly remind you about your specific objectives can help you keep them front of mind. A mentor can prompt you to keep actively pursuing your goals and offer useful suggestions on how to do that.

They inspire your growth

Perhaps you know exactly what you want out of your career. Or maybe you’re yet to find your passion. Either way, a mentor will focus on your professional growth, ensuring you explore new opportunities, challenge yourself and work to improve your skills and knowledge.

They offer encouragement

Life has a way of kicking you while you’re down sometimes, huh? When this happens, a mentor can help you realize that you still got this! They’ll encourage you to keep going even when things look bad.

They can act as a sounding board

Whether you’re an entrepreneur in need of business advice, or a grad looking for ways to launch your career, having a mentor gives you someone to bounce ideas off. They can listen to your challenges, offer an unbiased perspective and help you find solutions.

Mentors don’t need to be in the same industry as you, either. They may be someone with similar values or passions as you, or someone in a similar role within a different industry.

How do you find a mentor?

Look around. Your mentor might be right under your nose. You could learn from a manager, a colleague, a friend, a family member or even a past professor.

If your network presents slim pickings, you can also look online. There are some great apps and platforms that connect people to potential mentors.

Networking is another great way to find a mentor. You can do this virtually, by making connections on a platform like LinkedIn, or by attending an industry event.

Girls in Tech Mentorship Program

Did you know we launched a mentorship program in 2020? We’ll be running it again this year, kicking off in October, we’ll keep you updated!

What to look for in a mentor

Expertise and knowledge – they should be someone who’s spent longer in the industry than you, or has skills and experience to share (this doesn’t mean someone who’s older than you)
Enthusiasm – they should be passionate and excited about feeding into your life
Respect – they should respect your time and treat you as a valuable resource, someone who’s worth investing into
Ability to speak openly and honestly – they should be willing to have tough conversations with you and ‘tell it like it is’, even if it seems harsh. A great mentor will give you feedback and push you to go further
Listening skills – they may have anecdotes to share, but won’t always talk about themselves. They’ll ask questions, let you speak and really listen to you
Empathy – sure, they have similar experiences to yours, but they’ll never have been through what you’re going through exactly. A good mentor will be empathetic to your unique situation, and work hard to understand and advise you accordingly.

How to ask someone to be your mentor

You may have people in your life who already serve as unofficial mentors – people who give you career advice and direction. It might just be about making it official and actually asking them. A study by Olivete Nazarene University found that a mentorship relationship evolved naturally for 61% of people. 25% of people had someone offer to mentor them, while only 14% had to ask their mentor.

Have a conversation

If you’re actively on the hunt for a mentor, it may feel awkward broaching the topic. But it shouldn’t.

Heidi Holmes, Co Founder of Mentorloop says, “I always find a direct approach is best… In framing up your ‘ask’ be sure to recount your previous meetings, relay how you’ve enjoyed them, how they’ve specifically helped you and how you’ve applied their advice in your work or life.”

Set expectations

Your mentor-mentee arrangement may be loose and casual, or you may prefer to set clear boundaries in a formal mentorship agreement. Ensure that it suits you both. If they’re expecting a coffee catch up once a month, but you’d like a weekly two-hour check-in, you may need to find a happy medium so you both get value out of the relationship.

Be clear on how you’d like the mentorship to work. How will you communicate: in person or via video call? Will you provide an agenda in advance, or will it be more of a casual discussion? Will it require much of the mentor’s time? Try to set expectations at the start of the relationship.

How to get the most out of your mentorship

So you’ve secured yourself an awesome mentor. Go you! Now, it’s up to you to extract maximum value from this relationship. Keep momentum going by checking in regularly with your mentor, following up when you’ve taken their advice, and reiterating how much you appreciate their insights.

You might want to organize regular, scheduled check-ins with particular goals or themes to set some structure. A recurring calendar invite can ensure that no one forgets.

Most importantly, take it seriously and enjoy it. Remember, once you’re flying high in your career you may have someone ask you to mentor them!