For the past two decades or so, I’ve been shaping my career by watching those around me. I have been blessed to observe many good (and some not-so-good) leaders and I’ve also played a hand in guiding fellow colleagues along the way.
When it comes to mentoring, I think the Buddhist proverb says it best, “If you light a lamp for someone it will also brighten your own path.”
This mutuality of mentorship is not lost on the women taking part in the inaugural Wagga Women in Business Mentoring Program. While the mentees gain from having the guidance and advice of their mentor, mentors often get exposure to fresh perspectives as well as the opportunity to reflect on their own goals and practices. It’s a shared learning experience that both parties can find exciting and rewarding.
But don’t be mistaken. Mentoring is not for the faint hearted.
Here are a few truths my recent experience with mentoring brought home to me.
It’s all about the relationship
They say good relationships don’t just happen; they take work. This is true of mentoring. While the Women in Business Committee did their best to match mentors and mentees, it really is down to the pair themselves to put in the hard yards.
For me this meant:
- take the time to get to know one another – put your cards on the table as early as possible to define what it is you want from the relationship and agree to meeting times and discussion points
- keep to schedule – we’re all busy, so carving out the time for mentoring is sometimes a juggle. When you set up a meeting, keep it. Jealously guard that time
- avoid small talk – pleasantries are fine, but that’s not where the magic happens
- put in the work – whether it’s in the meeting or in between sessions, make sure you do all you can to get the most out of this relationship
- establish and maintain trust – a key asset to any relationship.
I’m fortunate to have the esteemed Judy Galloway as my mentor and I’m grateful that she is also putting in the work to make this mentor relationship a good one.
The truth hurts
While I have been in marketing and communications for many years, I have never run my own business. The reason I wanted a mentor was to learn from someone who has. Enter Judy.
A successful entrepreneur and businesswoman, Judy is what I like to call a “straight shooter”. Sitting at the boardroom table, Judy pushes me to my limits as we rigorously interrogate the topic at hand. Part of that interrogation is to make me really assess my plans, goals and motivations.
While it may feel confronting at times, the thing is, I need that. Through questioning me, Judy is helping me confront my preconceived notions of career, finances, business relationships and success. I feel like my horizons are expanding every time I talk to her. After each mentoring meeting I have a fresh idea or a new perspective on an old one. It’s only through this rigour that clarity of purpose can come about, even if that process can be painful.
Seize the day
In my experience, mentoring presents many opportunities to learn and grow. It’s up to me as the mentee to recognise those opportunities and seize on them.
One of the goals I had embarking on this mentor relationship was to be in my business full-time by the end of 2015. Thanks to Judy’s encouragement, I took that leap in early October a few months ahead of schedule.
While that scares me, it also excites me. There’s so much I want to do in this business and Judy has not only helped me see what’s possible, she’s illuminated the path so I can see how to get there. I feel like I’m braver now for having her support.
If you’re considering putting your hand up for the 2016 round of mentoring my advice would be to do it – put in the work and you’ll reap the rewards.