Why Mentoring Matters, and How to Get Started

“It’s always good to get somebody else’s point of view, because sometimes we drill down on things,” she said. “I think so often, when we’re engaged in a conversation, we’re so busy thinking about what we need to say, perhaps we’re really not thinking about what the other person might be thinking, feeling, experiencing.” She does a lot of role-playing to help those who are mentored workshop professional interactions. She said it was helpful to see “how that interplay is very different depending on which side of the conversation you’re sitting on.”

While anyone can serve as a mentor, effective mentors cultivate some key traits. “The mentors that our girls love the most are the ones that are great listeners, that see their potential and are willing to support them, come hell or high water,” Ms. Luke said. “If I’m not sharing with you the specific experiences that have helped shape my opinion on how to do things, then I’m not really helping you.”

Clarity and communication are also mutually important. “It helps to really know your concrete goals that you’re working toward,” Ms. Brodsky said. “You should also be clear with the mentor as to why you’re meeting them, and what you’re hoping to gain.”

Ms. Kaukus recommended telling a potential mentor why you chose them in particular. What about that person’s career, personality or profession drew you to them?

And Ms. Luke emphasized that there was really no one “right” way to seek or engage in a mentoring relationship, provided it remains respectful and open. “As long as you’re willing to let the relationship evolve in the way that it can, based on everyone’s time constraints and the way that the communication works best for the two of you, I think there’s no one, right structure,” she said.

If you’re looking to be a mentor or to be mentored, check in with your human resources department and look to professional organizations you may already belong to as a starting point. Ms. Kaukus also advised those who are part of a college or alumni network not to forget those connections.

For those looking to mentor others, Ms. Hochul said not to discount your ability to mentor not only formally, but by leading by example. If others “can look at how I overcame life’s challenges, and if that helps them get over those hurdles easier, then, to me, that is enormously satisfying,” she said. “I’ve got to know that our time made a difference,” and if we spent it “inspiring the next generation, then mission accomplished.”

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