While trying to flourish in your career, you may hit a few roadblocks, face hard life-altering decisions, or feel stuck after you've hit a few milestones. Therefore, a mentor is someone who can provide you the motivation and accountability needed to either take you to the next level or ensure you're on track toward your goals. According to a 2011 LinkedIn survey, having a mentor is important to the trajectory of your career. For Black women seeking C-suite positioning, this is difficult due to the lack of representation in these roles. While those numbers are improving, Black women need to strategize when seeking to secure a mentor that's right for them. So, if you find yourself stressed about where to start, here's a guide to help you find a mentor that's right for you! After reading this post, if you need a more in-depth look at how to find a mentor, make sure you listen to the latest I Choose the Ladder Podcast episode, “Let’s Find You a Mentor.”
1. Be clear on what you want in your career and find a coach who has made achievements in that industry.
You can't seek advisement from someone on up-leveling you to a level they've never reached. Just the same, always remember to be critical from who you receive council, especially when it comes to your career. I always say, consider the source. All advice is not created equal. When seeking a mentor to take you to certain heights, choose one who has excelled in that industry.
2. Seek out guidance from coaches who are relatable to you, have been where you are and are now where you want to be.
As you search for mentors within your industry, be sure you can relate to them, and they to you. You want at least one mentor who can understand your specific challenges as a Black woman in Corporate America. Since they have experienced situations similar to what you are currently experiencing, they will be able to give you tangible advice on how to hit certain career milestones, while navigating the politics of the corporate environment. This is important because although all women face challenges in the workplace, there are things that are unique to Black women and having an understanding of that makes a difference in the type of advice that is given.
3. Seek knowledge from diverse backgrounds and experiences to gain a better understanding and perspective.
It is that your board of directors of mentors is made up of different types of people. Whether that "type" is based on race, age, religion, or gender, the variety of perspectives can be very valuable to the type of network you build up and ultimately the success of your career. Diversity is the key to success, and understanding different perspectives will always set you apart from the rest. You want to be the best? Open your eyes and ears to the view of others, enabling you to respond from someone else's shoes. Great leadership starts with listening before acting – one of the best career catalysts for all industries.
4. Look for critical characteristics that are reflective of the type of career professional you're looking to become.
Everyone gets to the top differently, be it good or bad. Some people make it to the top, with their integrity and authenticity still intact. On the contrary, others make to the top lacking every good thing they use to be and are reborn in the negative image of their predecessors. To build a positive foundation that will be the trajectory of your future career life, choose a mentor who holds qualities you personally admire and wish to grow into when you get a seat at the table.
5. Understand that there's a mentor for each stage of your career.
It's vital to understand that there are different stages in your career. What worked to get you here, will not work to get you there - same goes for mentorship. It's not uncommon for a mentor to help you get from entry-level to management level, then a new mentor to get you from management level to chief officer positions. The criteria, accountability, and leadership require a new mindset shift. Therefore, during your career growth, you may experience three or more mentors while moving up the corporate ladder.
As you welcome new knowledge, experiences, and perspectives, keep your eye on your goals, while keeping your integrity, ambition, and authenticity intact. Never lose focus on who you are as you climb your way to the top.