Who pushes you to explore your inner potential to excel in the boardroom and beyond? Identifying quality mentors within the current professional landscape takes the ability to see that almost everyone you encounter has something they can teach you. Taking from an exercise from my recently published inspirational journal, 30 Days of Extraordinary: A Guided Journaling Process to a Fulfilled Life, you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with. Take a moment to imagine a dining table, set to your liking. Now imagine welcoming the frequent flyer guests of your life to take a seat at the table. These guests will include your family, co-workers, and friends that you see with some regularity. Each of these individuals help shape who you are in the world. What have you welcomed into your life? No doubt there are positive and negative aspects, but who would you like to welcome to the table that you may not be there yet?
Who sits at your table?
The women of Shine Theory, Sow and Friedman, referenced in my last article and expressed in more depth in their podcast episode, speak to opening this mental space to a wider demographic. If there aren’t “traditional mentors” in your mental space, good! Looking to your friends, peers, and colleagues who may be in similar positions but have varied experiences could be the exact perspective you need to learn from. Look to who sits to your left and right in the boardroom, classroom, and lunchroom. Whoever you decide to welcome to your table shapes who you are. You are the sum of the 5-10 people you spend the most time with. Who are these people? Often there are lessons to learn that are beneath the surface.
Good mentors will show by example.
Lean on me: 12 Women on Female Mentorship looked at six mentorship relationships that span from education to entrepreneurship to share their experiences together. Knowing where and what you are looking for can be incredibly useful. “The most important aspect in a mentor if you’re looking for one… it is a challenging question, but it has to be someone who loves what they do. Sometimes you have to observe them. Someone can say from their mouth that ‘I love what I do,’ but you have to watch and observe and be able to trust them, and be able to accept honesty.”
Role models and mentors are human and may not reflect everything you are working for, but they still must be someone that you value and feel comfortable talking things through with. “This seems weird.” Or… “Maybe I’m seeing this wrong…should I trust my gut? Which part of it is my insecurities and which part of it is actually, you know, genuinely valid or incorrect.” Finding a mentor you can be safely vulnerable with can create an unshakeable bridge towards confidently stepping into your future career goals.
Be open to a life of learning.
Throughout my life, with my work in non-profit organizations and as the founder of Van Petten Group, I have had the honor of being both the mentee and mentor and it is part of the secret to my success. I’ve continuously had at least one mentor since I was in kindergarten. I love being on both sides of the table because there are always new things to learn and then pass on. This is why this Insight series exists. If you are open to becoming or connecting with a mentor, I find once you make it known, the other half will appear, sometimes where you least expect it.
Megan Van Petten
Van Petten Group, INC.