Advice From Top Women Leaders About Finding a Mentor

The value of career counselling and guidance lies in self-empowerment. Challenge Consulting’s Career Guidance Options empower you to take your first step on the road to career satisfaction and success. Our friendly and qualified Career Advisers are here to help you! For more information, click here.

If you ask most successful leaders how they built their personal brand and how they rose ahead in business and their careers, they would tell you they had guidance through a mentor or an influential person. However, when it comes to finding our own mentor for our own personal development it can feel like a challenge and we are unsure of where to start, even though it doesn’t have to be difficult. So how do you find a mentor? What methods have you tried to find someone and follow up with in regards to your career goals?
Here are the Top 9 ways to find a mentor from the most influential women, along with comments from Carolyn Lawrence, President and CEO of Women of Influence, Inc.:

1.       Be coachable and be passionate. Claudia Hepburn, Executive Director, The Next 36

How do you show people that you’re coachable? If you’re working in the same organisation as these people, or on a committee – which is something I really recommend, show that you have promise, and you’re willing to hear good feedback and change course, and do better. So that’s what it means to, “be coachable and be passionate.” Be committed to whatever it is that you’re working on. Someone who’s passive and running for the door at 5pm is not going to find a connection with a mentor.

2.       Establish trust early on. Kimberley Mason, Regional President, Atlantic Provinces, RBC Royal Bank

I have found that, establishing trust early on is important. If you’re in a corporate environment, or have a client or vendor relationship, really make sure that, if loyalty is tested – or that someone has shared something with you that can hurt or help someone else – that you really make sure you’re doing the right thing, and handling those early opportunities in your corporation with importance. Really think through the decisions that you make and who you’re aligning with.

If, however, you’re not surrounded in your corporation with those opportunities or women you want – I have found it really helpful to figure out,  “Where do these people go in the evenings? or on their weekends – that I can either, join the club, or join a group, or join a sport? Something that puts me in the limelight with these people, to develop a trusting relationship that actually has nothing to do with work and what we’re doing in our job, but allows us to bond.”

I have found this to be so helpful in my own career. I’ve signed up for triathlon training groups, or charity fundraisers – anything that puts me into a different set of professional people. And then, we do something together – you establish trust by that shared common goal. And then, all of a sudden, you’re willing to do anything for these people – and them for you. So, it can be a mentor-mentee relationship. Doesn’t matter if they’re more senior or more junior professionally; you can help each other. And that’s the point: to establish trust as a person, and bond – and that can take you anywhere.

3.       Have many mentoring moments during critical periods in your career. Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer, Partner, Global Renewable Energy Leader, Deloitte

This is advice that I really like, because it’s a little more specific, and it also makes you think.  You don’t have to hang your hat on just one critical mentor. A mentor could be someone you have coffee with once. And that’s okay – and they help you through one thing that you’re curious about. And maybe something else occurs to you 5 years down the road, and you want to call them out for coffee again. Or maybe you have multiple people that you mean throughout your life that have mentored you in different ways. I think what’s critical is that you don’t need one magical person or magic bullet. It can be many mentoring moments, as opposed to a person. And think about it in the evolution of your career.

4.       Surround yourself with good people.   Chris Power, Christine Power, President and CEO, Capital District Health Authority

Along with mentors, seek out people who are willing to help you get closer to finding out what your strengths and talents are. Look for role models early in your career. Who are the successful women in your organisation? How do they communicate, behave, manage and inspire others? What do they do that helps them to position themselves for success?

Seek out a coach who can help you dive deeper into how to get to that next level in the career ladder, and look for champions. Champions can do more for you that you can ever do on your own. I’m always asking other female CEOs, ‘How do they build relationships? How do they big, new clients or referrals or promotions?’ And it’s often because they’ve had a champion who can talk about them better than they can talk about themselves. Women are so modest; we tend to not really share and talk about how great we are, how talented we are. So oftentimes, this is the champion’s role – our cheerleader – and for women, especially, this is something you really need in your back pocket.

5.       Make a list of who you want to be when you grow up.  And then find a way to make them part of your life.  Don’t limit yourself to one person. Connie Clerici, President, Closing the Gap, Healthcare

I encourage women, always, to look up as high as they can. And find those role models – because, it doesn’t matter if you have direct access to them. You can still be inspired. I’m always inspired by people like Heather Reisman, who’s a wonderful CEO here in Toronto – and one of my first role models, and still today. And people like Oprah, people like Anna Wintour – these are people that I consider role models. I may not have met them; maybe I still will. I have a long way ahead – but I always think to myself, you know, when you’re having that tough day, or when you think it’s not possible – all the dreams that you have, I think, ‘Well, what would Oprah do?’  Even just that simple exercise pulls me out of the small confines of my own desk – and give me a shift in perspective, and allows me to think bigger, which is sometimes all I need.

6.       Pay it forward.  Offer to help junior or senior people to create mentorship moments.  It can only be viewed as a good thing.  The best is to then make them recurring moments to learn and understand the context of the organization and how you could contribute to those issues.  Gay Mitchell, Deputy Chairman, RBC Wealth Management

What’s always worked well for me is a combination of joining a project, group, club, or team so that you have the opportunity to bond and get to know each other in a comfortable environment.  And then offer to do something for them.  Paying it forward has never let me down as a strategy.

7.       Reach out to people you admire.  Finding a good mentor can be as important to your career as finding a soul mate is to the rest of your life. Don’t sit waiting until a mentor finds you. Wendy Cukier, Vice President Research and Innovation, and Founder & Director, Diversity Institute, Ryerson University

The best mentors are often women that you establish a relationship with, that you find a connection with. And then it develops – and it takes on its own natural progression. And some of the best mentors you might never have the conversation about whether or not you’re a mentor or a mentee. But you know it – and they play that role for you, and they’re happy to do so. So, it isn’t helpful for some women, in that, they really want to know specifically, tactically, “How do I do this?” So the best advice that senior executive women have shared with me to pass along is that, you find a connection with these women. You put yourself out there, and get to know them – and, if they reciprocate with equal interest, then you keep going. And you build the relationship like you would any other relationship.

On the subject of asking for a mentor itself, I have heard a consistent response from peers and influential women everywhere; they don’t like to be asked.  In fact, the general rule of thumb for finding a mentor seems to be that if you have to ask, it’s probably not right.”

8.       Be open to serendipity. It was serendipitous that I met my mentor.  I was searching for employment and what came of it was one of the most influential people in my life. Danielle Smith, graduate of The Next 36 and mentee of Claudia Hepburn

Wendy Cukier said her mentors found her.

I was incredibly fortunate, because I didn’t actually seek them out – but they sort of naturally adopted me. And right from the first day that I walked into the Ministry of Transportation, I was very fortunate that, people took me under their wings – and, you know, it was, in fact, an engineer born in Hong Kong who taught me how to write – even though I had an English degree. I had a Masters degree in History. He’s the person who taught me how to write concisely and for an audience. And that’s probably the skill that has contributed most to my success.

9.       Use social media to demonstrate what you’re good at, your interests and strengths. Lisa Heidman, Senior Client Partner, The Bedford Consulting Group

Make sure that you are putting your best self out there on social media. Take the time to create a profile that showcases your talent and strengths, as well as experiences.

Look for people with common goals and experiences and make connections to expand your network.

Annette Bergeron, uses social media to promote herself. “ I try to find an enjoyable way – and I can’t emphasise “enjoyable” enough – way to market or promote yourself. So whether it’s through attending events, building those relationships that we’ve said were so important – or even though social media. I spend a lot of time there.”

As you build relationships both in your workplace and in the community, look for potential men or women who can provide you with valuable feedback, advice, and open doors for you to new opportunities to further your career.