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The Path to Mentorship

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Whether you’re looking for career guidance or are ready to share your expertise, this practical guide to all things mentorship will help you take the first step.

By Brianna Caleri and Courtney Runn

Honesty: “People who ask, ‘Why?’ and aren’t afraid to tell you something isn’t your best idea are the kind of people you want surrounding you.” – Jordan Jones, Packed Party

Vulnerability: “Share the experiences you’ve had and the things that went wrong as well as the things that worked out great.” – Anna Robinson, Ceresa

Versatility: “Don’t tunnel vision into a specific role and instead, look at people who possess the skill set you hope to achieve and start there.” – Kyra Seay, Bumble

Generosity: “If you come from the intention of adding value rather than taking, you’ll end up building a more substantive relationship.” – Mellie Price, Dell Medical School/Capital Factory

Social Awareness: “It’s really hard, particularly for young women of color, to find mentors. I think it’s just because the visibility isn’t always there.” –Virginia Cumberbatch, Rosa Rebellion

Stability: “Is their life balanced?” – Phyllis Snodgrass, Austin Habitat for Humanity

Do I have the availability to mentor someone? Kathleen McElroy, University of Texas School of Journalism

Can I be emotionally honest and vulnerable about my failures? – Kathleen McElroy

Am I ready for someone to rely on me? – Kim Hanks, Whim Hospitality

Am I open to learning from this mentorship? – Kathleen McElroy

Am I interested in getting to know this person so I can put the events in their professional life in context? – Virginia Cumberbatch

Do I know someone who is just starting out and could benefit from my experience so far, even if I am not at the top of my career? – Anna Robinson

What are my strengths and in what format can I offer them to a mentee? – Kim Hanks

Am I open to peer mentoring? – Virginia Cumberbatch

Ceresa“I’d mentored for years and years and years without [Ceresa], and it’s frustrating because people will take your time without knowing why. The platform provides accountability to both parties to create value and to seek clarity about why you’re interacting, thinking about why they want mentorship. And ‘why’ for this person makes the conversation more purposeful and more successful.” – Mellie Price

Bumble Bizz“Our users can state what they’re looking for in our Bumble Bizz profiles, which include networking, mentee/mentor, internship, investment/ investor, full-time job and more. On Bumble Bizz, you can filter out users based on what you’re looking for so that you can be more intentional in your mentor/ mentee search.” – Kyra Seay

Girls Empowerment Network“You are more likely to be successful when you have just the mere belief that you deserve to be in a room, that you deserve to speak up. At Girls Empowerment Network, we bring in women to have micro- mentoring sessions. When we put these women in front of girls, [the girls] really can see and talk to a woman not at an arm’s distance. That girl, as she grows, is much more likely to believe that she is also worthy of that future.” – Ami Kane, Girls Empowerment Network

Your Personal Network: “If you aren’t sure who can help you, ask a trusted friend for their suggestions. I have had some mentees [reach] out through introductions by mutual friends and others just find me through LinkedIn or other social-media channels.” – Phyllis Snodgrass

For Mentors:

“Ask for a resume and any other insights they are willing to share up front. Review their LinkedIn profile. Every person’s life journey is different, and listening and understanding where someone is coming from is where I like to start.” – Phyllis Snodgrass

“I always try to leave the conversation with an action item, something tangible they can take home and work on and that we can revisit in our next meeting. They are asking for your advice, so don’t be afraid to give it!” – Kendra Scott

For Mentees:

“Spend some time thinking about: 1.) What is important to you, 2.) How you would summarize your life to date and 3.) What you are hoping to accomplish.” – Phyllis Snodgrass

“Research your mentor’s background beforehand. Always prepare questions ahead of time. Maybe even send them to your mentor in advance to help guide the discussion. You want to make the most of your time with them, so be willing to put in the work.” – Kendra Scott

Every Day: Jewelry designer Kendra Scott says mentorship is “so much more than time on your calendar.” Whether it’s an afternoon phone call or texting back and forth, she says it’s important to know when you mentor someone that you’re “committing to be a person they can rely on.”

Monthly: Anna Robinson and Kendra Scott suggest meeting formally with a mentee on a monthly basis for one to two hours.

Quarterly: Jordan Jones meets with her mentor quarterly. When she has a larger project or needs more time, she asks to “sit down more frequently.”

Be Direct: “When I have needed advice and counsel, I’m just that direct. I will share how much I admire the person (for reasons X, Y and Z) and ask for the opportunity to meet.” – Phyllis Snodgrass

Don’t Be Weird: “I think it could be a little weird telling someone you’d like them to be your mentee, whereas saying you see awesome potential from someone and you’d love to help could be more approachable.” – Jordan Jones

Be Thoughtful: “Especially in Austin, there is a culture of mentorship that has become almost expected. So many people in this city are willing to help. The key to getting them to accept? Be thoughtful of their time. If you ask for simply a coffee or a quick phone call to start, mentors are much more inclined to accept.” – Kendra Scott

Stay in Touch: “Sometimes [unofficial mentees]just text me and say, ‘I have this decision to make and would love to know your advice towards it.’ I’m just available to them when they need me.” – Monica Peraza, Alegreea

1. You could be taking someone else’s place. “[Someone else] could probably do a better job because they will be more passionate about it. And it’s OK if you make a mistake; you will find the right place to mentor. You just have to be honest with yourself, with how much time you have, what your financial constraints are, and you know what your passions are.” – Kim Hanks

2. Don’t waste your time. “I don’t think anyone should agree to be a mentor unless there is a win-win in the process of doing it.” – Stephanie Breedlove, Care.com HomePay

3. Be OK with hearing no. “At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to do it is not going to do it. The next one might, and the next one might change your life forever.” – Monica Peraza

4. Don’t feel guilty. “Sometimes you just don’t gel with someone, and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean that person is a bad person or was particularly bad for you. It just didn’t work.” – Kathleen McElroy

For years, Kim Hanks gave back by doing what she does best: throwing parties. After several years of hosting monthly parties for an organization serving people with Down syndrome, she felt like she needed to transition to one-on-one mentorship. She quickly realized she was in over her head. Her mentee did not have a community surrounding her, and Hanks was the girl’s lifeline, plus there wasn’t actually time in her schedule for consistent one-on-one meetings. Hanks slowly began to regret the commitment and knew she needed to back out, for her sake and for her mentee’s. While she felt guilty, she knew it wasn’t the right fit and she could better serve women and pass along her wisdom through group mentoring. While a negative experience, breaking up with her mentee allowed Hanks to assess her strengths and time, then find a mentoring format that was the right match for her and her mentees.

“Thank you so much for taking the time to guide me during the past <time period>. I feel like I’m in a different place now and I’d like to find a mentor who can help me <specific ask>. Do you happen to know anyone in your network that might be willing to assist? I’m going to cancel our meetings for now, but I’d like to leave the door open to reach back out in the future if needed. Will that work for you? Again, I’m really appreciative of your time and advice and look forward to our paths crossing again in the future.”
– Melissa Patel, Dell EMC

1. “Find a quiet space and write down what the perfect day looks like for you: What matters to you? What makes you happy? What kind of work are you doing? What kind of people are around you? Where are you? Once you identify the things that are important to you, work to incorporate them step by step into your life.”

2. “Take time to reflect on how you got to where you are today by drawing your life map. Consider what your strongest values and beliefs are, where they came from and how they may have changed throughout your life. Consider if there are any unconscious biases that you learned and should let go of to become the person you want to be.”

3. “To boost your self-confidence before heading into a big meeting or presentation, watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, and learn to power pose.”

Training = teaching someone how to do her job

Mentoring = teaching someone how to take your job

– Stephanie Breedlove

“Being a mentee is not a passive role. I found ways where I could work directly with them, whether it was by reviewing a textbook they were writing or assisting at an event they were producing. It was a way for me to gain hands-on experience and connect with them.” – Kyra Seay

“I feel like baby boomer women did a lot of heavy lifting accessing knowledge from men who were traditionally in leadership roles. And now, we are thinking [about how to]bridge that knowledge to girls who are very young today.” – Ami Kane

“[In many countries,] mentors have been moms and grandmothers and things like that. We’re now more conscious of the fact that there are women who are willing to help you out and to mentor you because they are also invested in your success. [Talking about mentorship] is giving us permission to go and seek mentors, which I think is the first step. We need to feel worthy and relevant.” – Monica Peraza

“From a company point of view, mentorship is smart business. When you require anyone in management and above to enhance the skills—the knowledge, the ability, the professional maturity—of the people that work for them, [those people perform]better. Their department performs better. The company performs better.”– Stephanie Breedlove

“One form of mentoring isn’t more valid than the other. Helping other women is helping other women—period. It’s all about how you can relate to others best with your skill set.” – Kim Hanks


READ MORE FROM THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE

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