U.K. Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” Mr. Disreali, who extols selflessness and generosity, sounds like he has exactly what it takes to be a great mentor. For, as I learned last month at a young women’s mentorship event hosted by Buffalo’s Women on the Rise group, mentoring is an act of generosity.
Karen Russell, in her TEDxOverlake speech on mentorship, calls it “a relationship that helps people find their highest and best use.” As I learned from over a dozen mentoring conversations at Women on the Rise’s event, we’re not expected to have all the answers. Simply sharing your experiences and lessons learned can benefit a younger professional still in search of her highest and best.
From the women I met at Women’s on the Rise’s networking night – who specialize in areas ranging from Human Resources and Organizational Development to law and higher education – I heard some sage advice and practical tips on finding and following your path. Here are some simple truths that stood out:
1. Explore Your Options
“Careers today are not linear,” I heard again and again from women at all levels in their careers. One mentor I talked with, whose passions have taken her from Mexico and Costa Rico to D.C. and local government, advised that taking time to explore your passions and skills is key in finding the right position. Shadowing, interning and focusing on transferrable skills were three strategies women used to pinpoint just what it is they love to do.
2. You Don’t Need a 5-Year Plan
So many of the leaders at last month’s event had never imagined themselves doing what they do now. You can’t predict the people and opportunities that will come into your life as you challenge yourself and say yes to new things. In the end, the most surprising and fulfilling parts of our careers – like most parts of life – don’t follow a plan.
3. Trust Yourself
You can choose to stay – or you can choose to quit. One of the women I talked to had made a brave move – taking a few months, a few years back, to travel Europe and then to jump immediately into full-time studies in the ComLead program. She advised the young women across from her, “Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t be afraid to make bold moves.”
Are you part of a mentoring relationship now, or thinking about starting one? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.