I highly recommend having a mentor. I have been lucky and honored to have great mentors that have opened doors for me in the form of new knowledge, advice and relationships.
I have also had the experience of working with tormentors. Tormentors are people that hold you back professionally. The good news is that you have significant control over how to handle these tormentors and a mentor can help. I suggest looking for a mentor that you can communicate with openly and honestly.
When first starting out in my career I was lucky to have a boss that immediately took on the role of mentor. It was nice to not even have to ask in my case. If this doesn’t happen or hasn’t happened for you, take the initiative to identify and ask someone to be your mentor.
My first mentor helped me build relationships with people that I may have never met. People of various backgrounds, professional and nonprofessional, elected officials and nonprofit staff such as Executive Directors and program staff. This occurred in such a way that I was able to make a great first impression. I maintain many of these relationships to this day. Including, still seeking advice from my mentor.
Seeking advice from a mentor is exceptionally valuable. A mentor who is able to provide guidance with integrity through ethical situations, like sexual harassment or being treated unfairly in the work place, is priceless. It requires an honest relationship and one where you value your personal opinion and are open to a different point of view.
I choose to mention sexual harassment and being treated unfairly because these are common experiences for young women in the workplace.
Sometimes it is having to deal with a colleague inviting you for a drink; tip-avoid it at all costs.
Maybe it’s something like your male boss or male board members not shaking your hand but shaking the hand of males; tip-address the issue directly with the person in a safe and confidential manner.
Maybe another staff person intentionally and continuously leaves you out of the information loop important to your role; tip-address directly, in writing, with the person and document each time it occurs.
Discrimination is overt and covert, it is how you handle it that matters. A good mentor will provide advice on issues.
Beyond helping forge new relationships and advice with integrity, a great mentor will encourage and stand up for you.
I once witnessed a mentor give high praise to her mentoree in a public speech. What I didn’t know is that she was introducing her as the key note speaker for the event I was attending. Once on stage the mentoree thanked her mentor (after a hug) and noted that she was honored that an expert in the field, her mentor, had recommended her for the key note speech. I was watching “a passing of the torch” and a great mentoring relationship in action.
The key to the story above is the mentor recommending her mentoree over herself as the key note speaker because she knew that the publicity would further her mentoree’s career and the speaking engagement allowed for a professional growth opportunity.
There is a difference between someone who says you are great and skilled and someone who advocates with and on your behalf. Aim for the later and you will grow professionally, have a successful career and have your own story of a great mentor.