A couple of months ago I met my mentor for lunch and whilst we were chatting waiting for our meal it suddenly hit us: she has been mentoring me for two years. We had a little laugh reminiscing on our first chats and the issues we discussed back then. It felt like a lifetime away and I told her I really didn’t feel like I was the same person as I was two odd years ago. She then said that I was right, I wasn’t. I had grown so much and she was so proud of who I had become, as a person and as a professional.
My mentor has been such an important part of my career progression and perhaps I’ve only now realised to what extent having her as a sounding board, guide and honest leader has done for me.
I’m going to share more about how our relationship started, what we talk about and why I think I couldn’t have achieved as much without her.
How I Found My Mentor
This is a funny story. One that probably you don’t expect to hear because we are always very good a sharing successes but not so good at doing the same with our failures. It was summer 2017 and after nearly 6 months of preparation, between volunteering with the SYP as an Events Coordinator and completing an Events Diploma to be a certified events manager, I was ready to find my next job. I wanted something quite specific. A hybrid role with both sales and events. A step up, ideally. I wasn’t going to leave my safe job at PRH for anything less than perfect. So I started applying. Targeted applications. I started getting some answers and ended up interviewing for three potential roles. One of them was an absolute dream job and when I got a call to interview I was over the moon. Unfortunately, despite getting to the final stage, I wasn’t successful. The disappointment was very much toned down by the fact that I was offered the other two, but it was still there… Then, I received a feedback email from the hiring manager. She was honest, to the point, and made it very clear that it wasn’t my lack of skills that didn’t land me the position. And then, I knew that I had to learn from that woman. She didn’t pick me so I had to think about how to approach this, but I was determined to have her as my mentor.
How I asked her to become my mentor
So my ideal mentor was someone who didn’t hire me for a job. Someone who had rejected me and picked somebody else. I guess my relationship with failure was more complicated than I thought, because all I could think about was ‘I will be learning from you, one way or other’. I had never asked anybody to become my mentor, so I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but I thought that it would be good to make sure we got along outside of the interview setting. So a week after receiving her feedback, I emailed her to say that I had really appreciated her honest approach and I would love the opportunity to meet her again for coffee when she had some time. We then picked a date and we met for coffee. I was nervous and I had so many complexes. I kept thinking that she was probably feeling like I was wasting her time, that I wasn’t that good so why should she bother. But I kicked all of them into the darkest corner of my brain and decided to focus on enjoying our catch up. When we said bye, I knew that she was the right person to mentor me. Even though I perhaps could have just asked her straight up, meeting up gave me the chance to see if she also was interested in mentoring me and if she felt we clicked. And we did. At the end of our chat, I asked her if she would be interested in being my mentor and her answer was (luckily) a positive one!
What do we talk about?
Once she became my mentor, we started planning some catch-ups every three to 4 months. These depended largely on both our work commitments and we sometimes went 6 months without seeing each other. But generally speaking, even when we can’t meet in person, we do keep each other updated over email. Some of the things that I found most useful to discuss with her are the sort of questions that you wouldn’t talk to your manager about. For example, life decisions and how to make sure I made the right one for my career, difficult relationships at work and how to manage them, career progression and applications to other jobs. My mentor is always there for me and she is always on my side. She has been one of my biggest champions, ready to celebrate my successes and to lift me up when these didn’t come around for a while. Having a mentor, meant that there was no topic off limits and that I could face even the biggest challenges (first salary review, difficult bosses, restructuring and uncertain times) with someone by my side who would guide me through it.
As I said, this was my first ever mentor relationship, so there’s probably a lot that I could have done differently, but for the sake of this post, I wanted to share my approach to it as a junior professional. Hopefully, this shows that there is always a positive twist to every situation (even being rejected for a job!) and that inspiration and guidance can be found everywhere around you.
Do let me know what you’re experience finding a mentor has been so far and if you have any tips to share 🙂