In Search of a Mentor? Look in the Mirror

With January being National Mentoring Month, many of the career conversations I’ve been involved with online and offline the past month have, not surprising, been about mentorship, from the value of mentoring to how to find a mentor, and ways to get the most from a mentoring relationship.

Now, in full disclosure, I bring a biased POV to such conversations because I believe 100% in the power of mentorship. In fact, mentorship is so ingrained in me that it’s sort of like breathing – I don’t think twice about it. Yet, so many professional women I meet don’t have mentors. I’m confident that if we asked how many women have served as a mentor, the majority would have said no. Perhaps it comes down to how one defines mentorship, but I beg to differ.

I would bet that most professionals have a curated group of people they go to for advice and counsel when issues, opportunities and challenges come their way. You may not “tag” these individuals as mentors in your mind, but, in effect, that’s the role they are playing. I would agree that fewer professionals go one step further and engage in more structured mentoring relationships, either with a single person or a personal board of advisors, which I call “big M” mentoring. I’m a huge believer in “intentional” mentorship and readily admit that I wouldn’t be where I am today, professionally and personally, without it. I’m so passionate about mentorship that I actually block time on my calendar each month to be available for one-on-one mentoring conversations with those seeking me out for help.

As, if not more, powerful and all too often overlooked – in my view – is “little m” mentoring. That’s the mentorship I receive by observing others – from how they dress to how they engage in small talk to how they negotiate to how they handle conflict – and then emulating the qualities that I admire in them to up my game. And, by extension, it’s the mentorship I give by how I carry myself, treat people, give feedback, handle conflict, etc. , through daily interactions, large and small, with colleagues, peers, business partners and so on. I have no doubt that the “what” and “how” of my actions – or your actions – speak louder than anything we can say in a 30-minute mentoring conversation or write in a post about mentorship.

So, the next time you look in a mirror, take a moment to reflect and take stock of whether your image and actions are reinforcing or undermining the personal brand you want to cultivate.

Written by Linda Descano, CFA, EVP, Red Havas


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