Thank you to the Forté Foundation for partnering in this post.
Having moved across the country at 18 for college and continued living in one of the most competitive cities in the world, excellent mentors have played hugely influential roles in my own journey as a college student and then young professional. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for incredible mentors I’ve had along the way.
Because mentorship is an invaluable tool in any ambitious women’s success kit, I partnered with the Forté Foundation to share some tips on how I’ve found mentors along the way in my journey, and to help spread the word about the incredible mentorship support they offer as well!
Here are some of my most influential mentor stories at different stages in my career, as well as tips I have on finding and nurturing mentor relationships.
Mentor Moment in School
Like most young people, college was a very fun, exciting yet confusing time in my life. All the newness and independence are energizing, but it can come with a heavy pressure to have your life “figured out” and know what you want to do when you grow up.
Like most young people, I did not.
Throughout my college career, I had many people that I looked up to and could have considered mentors in one sense or another. Looking back, the ones that made the biggest impact on me were two professors that didn’t so much teach me about their subject matter, but supported and encouraged me to continue discovering who I was and what lit me up.
They did this by keeping their office doors open for discussion freely, happily meeting after class for questions, and expressing an interest in what excited me (and other students). In fact, one of the first blog posts I ever wrote was about the advice this professor gave me about my career. Having these types of mentors throughout college—and beyond—has been invaluable.
Tips on finding mentors in school
Make Mentor Goals
While in school, you likely have a long, sometimes disorganized to-do list. This includes your homework, staying healthy, looking for internships, managing your money, and your attempts to have a social life. No matter how important you feel a mentor may be, unless you squeeze that on your to-do list, it can easily surpass you.
Be proactive about your mentorship opportunities by making a point to find and connect with a professor each semester. While most teachers are willing to help, they usually won’t make “the first move,” so it’s up to you.
Don’t stand in your own way
Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of all YOU also have to offer mentors, or let yourself feel burdensome to them. For the right mentor, it’s a privilege to work with and help you. After all, helping students grow is one of the major reasons professionals go into higher education. So have confidence in yourself. Boldly ask your favorite teacher to coffee, an assistant teacher to lunch, or anything else you think will benefit you. It’ll often benefit them more than you may think.
Mentor Moment at Work
Once you graduate, you’re launched into the world of 9-5 jobs. It’s exciting and overwhelming all at the same time, and this is where mentors are so important.
It didn’t take me more than two years out of college to start thinking about graduate school. I worked at a law firm, and ended up getting very close with one of the younger attorneys, who mentored me as I considered, researched, applied to and was eventually accepted into law school. Having her help was invaluable. She proofread my applications, conducted mock interviews with me, quizzed me on the LSAT, and of course, talked me down during my moments of panic. 🙂
As you consider graduate school or professional career paths, I highly recommend finding a mentor who is a couple of years ahead of you, and is on the path to where you want to be. If you’re interested in pursuing business school, consider the Forté Foundation MBA Launch program, an invaluable resource supporting women as they apply for their MBAs.
Tips on finding mentors at work
Don’t overthink it
People often ask how to find a mentor at work, as if it’s a very calculated, official process. In fact, most of the time it can be a casual, natural relationship that builds upon common interests, particularly if your desired mentor has accomplished things you wish to do as well. So, don’t overthink the process. You can look up to someone, be friends with them, and ask for advice—that’s mentorship!
Look for external support
If your company doesn’t exactly have what (or who) you’re looking for, seek out for external networks and organizations for support. There are professional networks for young professionals in several fields with chapters all across the world. You also may want to consider the Forté Foundation MBA Launch program if you’re looking at an MBA and don’t have anyone at work who has an MBA.
Put yourself in the game
If you’re not sure how to get in touch with the people you admire, put yourself in the situations they find themselves in. Forté Foundation Executive Director, Elissa Sangster, illustrates this in her Forbes Piece, The Accidental Mentor. Your mentors are usually going to be waiting for you exactly where you’d want to find them. So, where does your ideal mentor spend his or her time? Coffee shops? First class? Museum events? Volunteering? There’s no better way to connect with those you admire than to put yourself in the game with them.
Mentor Moment as an Entrepreneur
At some point throughout your young professional career, you may catch the entrepreneurial bug and wish to create something of your own. Whether you decide to start a full-on business, a side hustle, a blog, a volunteer project, or anything else, it can be incredibly fulfilling. Having a mentor from the get-go can help you set yourself up for success.
I started my side hustle (this website!) two years ago. During the first year, I tried to do nearly everything alone. I learned a lot, but it didn’t lead to much success or much income. Looking back, I wonder why I expected myself to know how to do everything on my own!
During year two, I realized that if I wanted to actually give this a shot, I needed to invest in my business and myself. I got serious about finding mentors and up-leveling myself. I’m confident that had I not found mentorship, I would not have built a business around my 9-5 job that makes more than my 9-5 job does.
Tips on finding mentors as an entrepreneur
Don’t be afraid to pay for it
Throughout college and in 9-5 jobs, my mentors were people that I already worked with in some capacity. They didn’t have to go out of their way to teach me, since it was within the scope of their work. However, as an entrepreneur, you may have to pay for mentorship… and that’s okay!
Sometimes finding masterminds, coaches, teachers, and speakers that you admire and want to learn from will require you to pay.. This might not feel totally natural at first if you’re used to learning from your mentors free of charge, but there’s nothing wrong with paying in these circumstances. it can be a fair exchange of time and value.
Embrace social media
Social media can get a bad rap for portraying images that are too unrealistic or unobtainable. But I think you can learn something from those gorgeous Instagram feeds you love to follow. Notice what it is about certain accounts or feeds that you admire: it could just be nice photos, but maybe it’s a lifestyle, work ethic, or accomplishment that you admire. In that case, consider reaching out to these influencers and see how you might be able to learn from them. Remember, if they did it, it’s possible for you too!
Read their books, listen to their podcasts, and so on.
Another way to find mentors as a creative or entrepreneur is to reach out to people who have written books you like, or record your favorite podcasts. These platforms are typically used to get their message, story, and strategies, out into the world. Chances are they would be happy to hear from you!
Thank you, Mentors!
My journey is just one of many that exemplify the power of mentorship in your career. No matter what stage you’re in or what you’re looking to achieve, we’re not meant to succeed alone! I hope that this helps guide you in finding your own mentor, and eventually, mentoring someone yourself, too!