I was going through some old papers when I came across my notes from the Spring 2006 Career Night hosted by my alma mater, Spelman College. The theme for the evening was “To, Work, To Live, To Love: A Conversation about Finding Passion and Balance in a Chaotic World”. In the midst of my note taking style, which looks like a cool info graph, was valuable information. Then I was absorbing information with the mindset that I would be an attorney in a large firm. Now, I can see how the advice from panelist Yolanda Bivens, Andrea Brown, and the ever inspiring Allegra Lawrence can apply to most industries.
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I know that everyone can benefit from a mentor-mentee relationship; however, I believe it’s even more imperative that every woman has a professional mentor…and a good one at that! While I know it is easy to assign that “role” to a public figure like Oprah, it is likely more beneficial to you and your career if you find someone who is actually willing to spend time with you. It was about four years ago when I realized for myself how important this type of mentorship can be. As I was transitioning careers, I decided to form a “dream team” of coincidentally women mentors. My theory was that alone, each of them had an ability or network that the other did not, but together they formed a diverse and complete dream team.
Things to Consider When Finding Your Mentor
Does your mentor have the time to spend with you? This, in my opinion, is the most important. I had a great dream team of movers and shakers, but it was also so very hard for some of them to squeeze me into their schedules. Although the intentions are good, you aren’t gaining anything from this relationship if you aren’t even spending time with them.
Is this someone who will hold you accountable? For you to truly succeed, you need to have someone who is so concerned about your goals and career path, that they aren’t afraid to be bluntly honest, call you on your “stuff” and maybe even kick your butt, if needed.
Are you learning tools that will help you get to where you want to be? The lessons may not always be explicit or intentional, but you have to be able to decipher how you can use what you are learning to thrive without compromising your character or integrity.
Are they respected in their field/company/community? I learned the importance of this when I was conducting a cattle call of interviews on a panel with other choreographers in Atlanta. A number of the young dancers assumed that their relationships with their mentors would help give them the extra edge. So dancer after dancer took the “opportunity” to name drop not truly understanding the reputation of their mentors in the industry. The lesson I learned: Just because your mentor is known, doesn’t mean that they are respected.