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Going through your career without a mentor is a big mistake. And a mistake I made during the first years of my career. Every career woman needs at least one mentor they can trust to help navigate their career. There is this notion that women have to manage and do it everything alone. That we are the caregivers of our homes, our society, our families, and of course at work.
But we, women, need to learn how to lean in and accept help or guidance. I struggle with this a lot. I feel that I have to prove to everyone that I am okay and able by myself. But I realized over time that there is no harm in asking or receiving help. In fact, I learned that,
Behind every strong success woman is a herd of women that have helped and supported her.
This has never been more true in my career. The mentors, sponsors, coaches and managers I have had over my life are a testament to who I am today. These women, and some men, provided the career and life guidance I needed.
I remember being a teenage screaming the Destiny Child song "Independent Woman" lyrics in my beat-up Toyota Camry. This notion that we don't need anyone to get things done. But as I get older and look back at my career and personal life, I know I would not be here if not for the herd of people around me. There is an old African proverb that says:
If you want to go fast go alone if you want to go far go together
Time has always been my enemy. I used to feel that I was always behind and needed to do things faster. But I was not doing things well. I have always been someone who wanted to get things done quickly and check things off my checklist. This I did this by age 25 or by age 30 was always in the back of my mind. But what I realized, the hard way was that I creating depth in my life experiences. I was living life shallowly by skimming through friendships, relationships, and ignoring the help of others. I didn't know the value of community, teachers or mentorships until just recently. Now, I am deeply committed to building a strong community versus competition or going at it alone. Mentorship has been a game-changer for me when evaluating my career or the next steps of my life. The mentors I currently have really been impactful and a great sounding board for me.
Provide Career Clarity
A mentor can provide you with career clarity because they have the years of experience and practice you may be lacking. Mentors can provide a birds-eye view on your career which provides more clarity as sometimes you can get stuck in the minute details. They provide an objective viewpoint and challenges your viewpoint to make sure you are thinking clearly and not settling. They sometimes act as the devils advocate to pressure test your thought process.
Everyone career woman needs their own board of directors, aka mentors. Board of directors provides direction, insight, guidance, and clarity for the company. A mentor plays the same role. They are there to stir you in the right direction and always has your best interest in mind.
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Be a Sounding Board
Sometimes a mentor can simply be someone you can vent to. Having an issue at work and can't share with your coworkers (as they might be part of the issue, well then lean on your mentor. I've found that the best mentors start each conversation with "how are you doing?" They are there to not just talk about professional life but personal life as well. A sounding board is someone you run things by or seek advice from. They protect you from future mistakes and share their life lessons to help guide you. They are also there to just listen and hear you out.
Everyone career women need a hypeman or woman. And at times that is what a mentor is. They provide encouragement on days when you are down and motivation to help you stay focused on your goals and ambitions. They help lift you up when you are down and are a great person to turn to for continuous support and encouragement. Sometimes, a simple "you are doing great," is all that is needed. A mentor is there for just this when needed. The best mentorship relationships end in friendships. And friendships are rooted in love and encourage coupled with endless unwavering support.
A great mentor will be an even greater connector. A mentor should be helping you find the right people to help you along your every changing career journey. They connect you with other sponsors or mentors. They open up doors that you thought were closed. Due to there experience, they can provide you with help in transitioning into a new industry or company. Mentor is usually connected across different levels, functions, and industries and are always willing to help begin or introduce you to other people. Don't be afraid to ask your mentor for other mentor contacts as well. They are here to help you grow both professionally and personally, and should be willing to help!
In every sense a mentor is priceless. For one thing, getting a mentor doesn't physically cost you a dollar. You don't have to pay to be a mentor or be a mentee. This relationship/partnerships provides to many benefits yet doesn't cost you a dime. I've found mentorships to be extremely fulfilling and beneficial to my career. The success I have had in my career has been heavily due to the mentors in my life. There is no reason not to get a mentor now. This is a free service that many leaders are offering. The value I received is indescribable yet free. I value these relationships and know others in the same situation feels the same.
I've found that the best mentor relationships are two ways. Where you are not only getting all these great benefits but the mentor finds value in connecting with you as well. A career woman should actively search for mentors to help navigate through personal and professional journey.
About the Author:
Grace Kasozi is the Founder of Kasozi Associates a platform dedicated to connecting women professional to women life, business, and career coaches to help close the gap. Grace has over 10 years of experience building well-known brands. She holds an MBA from the University of Minnesota and is currently a Global Brand Manager at large midwest CPG. She spends her free time traveling the world with her husband and 2-year-old son.