Blog > January 2021 > A Mentor by Any Other Name: How to Find Your Mentor and When to Lean on Them Most

A Mentor by Any Other Name: How to Find Your Mentor and When to Lean on Them Most

Whether you actually use the term “mentor” or not, it is so important for young women (and men) to find someone experienced to serve as a guide and advisor as you navigate your career. Don’t let stories of the “old boys” network sway you into thinking that your mentor must be a woman!

While women do have unique experiences to share, don’t dismiss offers of help from a man. I was very fortunate early in my career to have two mentors (though I didn’t refer to them by that term). As it turns out, one was male and one was female. I learned very important lessons from them both – about navigating a career, choosing new roles, balancing work and family, honing my writing and so much more.

Both were phenomenal and distinguished writers with enviable credentials, and they were respected executives. But they came from very different worlds. The woman mentor came from health care and non-profits. The man mentor had been editor of an influential national news magazine and a corporate executive. The woman was my first boss, and the man, my second… and third and fourth!

I was so fortunate that both stepped forward, before I even knew to ask, to support me as I navigated the early part of my career. Having benefited so much from their guidance, it is always a piece of advice I offer when asked. For those looking for a mentor: I don’t know any of my peers who would not welcome the opportunity to “give back” by guiding someone along their career path or helping them weigh the options when faced with an important decision.

There are often inflection points in a career where it seems obvious to reach out for guidance such as a:

  • job offer with a new company
  • layoff
  • change in your family structure, including having a baby, gaining a spouse or losing a spouse
  • relocation requirement/opportunity
  • time of dissatisfaction in your job/role/industry
  • change in career path

There are also less obvious times when it is helpful talking through the issues with someone who can help you navigate a difficult challenge or celebrate a success! Sometimes you may not even realize you’re in need of guidance until you get in touch. When these relationships are working well, they also become a two-way street where you support each other and each act as a sounding board. After all, no one has all of the answers!

While I’ve mainly emphasized seeking out a mentor, it’s equally important, when the time is right for you, to become a mentor. It’s another way to network or connect with others IRL (in real life) at a time when many of our connections are increasingly virtual. On the topic of virtual connections, check out ASG’s Women Leaders in Technology Group on LinkedIn. We invite you to join the group and participate in the conversation!

In closing, I will offer this advice: if someone you respect offers to guide you, accept their offer! And if no one steps forward to fill that role for you, ask someone – not only will you benefit, they will, too.