A few months ago, I sent a reader survey about your experiences with mentorship and a few of you responded. I’ll share your responses below, as well as my own experience with mentorship.
👉🏼 My Experience with Mentors
What hasn’t worked: I’ve tried 3 formal mentorship programs in the past, where you sign up and get assigned a mentor and a structured program. Unfortunately for me, these mentorship programs didn’t really work well. I think part of the challenge is that scaling this kind of relationship is really hard. There needs to be more than face-value fit… there needs to be a connection and trust. And I often found that these things were lacking in our time-constrained programmed relationships.
The best mentors I’ve had: The best mentorship experiences I’ve had were critical in my success and development throughout my career. As I mentioned last week in the Hero’s Journey, mentors are a critical part of us stepping outside of our comfort zone and taking major leaps. From my personal experience, the best mentors I’ve had shared the following characteristics:
- They faced similar challenges that I face in the workplace: as a person of color, as a woman, as a 3rd culture kid, as a child of immigrants, as someone who is massively under-represented in senior leadership positions… the experiences and biases that I’ve faced cannot be truly understood by someone who hasn’t faced them as well. I’ve always learned most from mentors who were part of the under-represented group and valiantly fighting the unspoken battles that we face daily.
- They paved a career path that inspires me: despite facing those challenges, my mentors are in extremely impressive positions at top companies around the world without compromising on their values. Not only am I inspired by their journey but I’m also inspired by where they landed despite the odds. They were able to pave their own path.
- They are committed to helping me: a huge part of mentorship is commitment. If the mentor is not committed to you, your development, and spending time to help, then it’s unfortunately not going to be a priority in their busy schedule. I have been lucky to have people who will pick up the phone when I call in times of need. Without their commitment, I wouldn’t have been able to establish this relationship with them.
- They are values-driven: I often get the question of whether it’s possible to rise through the corporate ranks without selling your soul. I think the answer is yes, but I think it comes with a lot of effort on the individual to carry this burden. My mentors are people whom I hold in high regard for the values that they’ve maintained and the integrity that they have shown throughout their day-to-day. Many of them are people I have worked with directly and seen operate behind the scenes.
- They want to learn from me too: my mentors have a learning mindset just as much as I do, and also ask me for advice on how to lead in the remote / digital era, how to retain smart talent, how to keep people motivated, etc. I find it incredibly refreshing when there is mutual vulnerability to ask each other these questions and learn from each other. I’m often humbled and honored to be considered someone they can learn from too.
👉🏼 Your Experiences with Mentors
Let’s look at your responses to my questions on YOUR experiences with mentorship from a few months ago.
#1 – Most of you have a mentor but it’s not very formalized:
“Do you currently have a mentor?”
#2 – Top 3 things you guys are seeking from a mentor
“What are you looking to get out of a mentor?”
- A different perspective than I have on my own career
- A safe space to discuss challenges I am facing and receive advice or brainstorm potential avenues
- Coaching conversations that help elevate myself and ask difficult questions
Interestingly, many of you also said you’d be open to learning from a peer not just someone older or more experienced than you. I couldn’t agree more, as sometimes my peers inspire me most!
#3 – 100% of you responded “yes” to being interested in participating in a mentorship program
- 1:1 mentorship was the predominant preference
- Peer coaching circles came up as well
- Mentoring others was also something that many of you said brings you joy
👊🏼 So what now?
As part of my contribution to Millennial Executive leadership development, I’ve decided to take on one mentee who thinks that they could learn a thing or two from my experiences and can teach me a thing or two about their experiences too. I’ll be kicking off a free mentorship program in January for 6-months to try out some programming that I’ve developed from my own practices while also connecting with other incredible Millennial Execs out there who want to coach each other.
[Update: this program has closed. Thank you for all your interest!]
💆🏻♀️ My Self-Care checklist score this week: 75%.
Always be learning,