Your guide to creating the most fruitful mentor-mentee dynamic
by Neeraja Ganesh
Have we not heard people say –“One should always have a mentor!” For sure! But why?
The simplest way to explain it is that you learn from the mentor’s experiences and perspectives and hence, fast-forward your career journey, instead of spending many years gaining those very experiences and perspectives all by yourselves.
So, does one really need to seek out a mentor? How long should one associate with one mentor? Can someone have more than one mentor at a time? Can someone get mentored without the mentor knowing that she/he is having such an influence on the “mentee”?
If I were to introspect my career journey, the first time I was given a jolt in my career was by my boss who said — “Neeraja, you have made yourself indispensable in this team”. He was a new boss and it had not taken him long to see that I had learnt the technology application inside out and all the stakeholders were very happy having me manage it. I was extremely pleased with myself and would have probably continued in the same team and same role for years to come, had it not been for this new boss who made a revelation to me by his statement. And he continued, “You will have to find your successor, train him/her and move out of the team”. While this might sound more like a manager’s command, it was actually a way of mentoring me, saying that one has to move out of the comfort zone and allow others to grow so that you can also grow.
Having seen the power of mentoring through my long career and how it helped me transform myself, I took it upon myself to become a mentor to many. I found that the easiest and most powerful way to do this was by associating myself with platforms which provided mentoring to their users. Aspire for Her is also one such platform helping young girls in the age group of 18–25.
When is the mentoring really effective? Well, It’s a two-way street. There are attributes of the mentor which we can speak about. But I want to focus on the attributes of the mentee. Some of the attributes include the mentee’s commitment, clarity of thoughts, willingness to be mentored and openness to feedback. However, the most important attribute is the mentee taking accountability. Mentors want to see changes in the mentee. If the mentor has suggested something, the mentee needs to ACT on it. I have seen the lack of ACTION in many of my mentees. And, whenever the mentee has taken the step and acted, the results have been phenomenal.
One such stark example is the story of Neha Tripathi, who reached out to a women’s platform requesting for some guidance as she had taken a career break and was finding it extremely challenging to restart her career. Since I was associated with that platform as a mentor, I was asked to speak to her, which I did. She came over to the office and met me, and gave me a presentation about her thoughts on women on a career break and how to enable them to restart. A lot of it was from her own experience. The first thing that appealed to me was the fact that she did not come with the problem. She came to me with the problem and the intended solution, asking if the solution was a good one. It made my job easy. I suggested a few things based on my experience and told her that I could give her an opportunity to speak to many more such women who are on a career break over a webinar which our platform could host. Since the majority of the users on the platform were on a career break, it would help her in two ways — one, it would help other women on a career break understand how they could navigate the situation and find opportunities, and second, it would give Neha a platform to showcase her thoughts, give her visibility and confidence. She went ahead and delivered the webinar. I congratulated her on the success of it. After some days, I saw that she had launched her own talk show called the Neha Tripathi talk show, where she would have a candid conversation with industry experts on a variety of topics. And before I knew it, she was being invited to many conferences to give talks. She had also started her own mentoring platform where she mentored other women. And recently, she has authored a chapter in a book titled “Being Employable”. She is what one would call the “ideal” mentee. She knew what she wanted to do, approached a mentor with solutions to the problems that she wanted to solve, took the recommendations from the mentor and acted on it and with the confidence that she gained, took the plunge and saw success.
It’s not always that you need to “seek out” mentors. Mentors are all around you. Being observant of everyone around you as well as understanding and learning from them is also a form of getting mentored.
There is no age to start seeking out and learning from mentors. And there is never an end to learning from mentors. Mentors need not always be more experienced, or older than you. I learn all the time from people much younger to me and people who are my peers.
My interactions with the young team at Aspire for Her has been a huge learning and mentoring experience. When I get my article reviewed and edited, I learn. When I discuss event promotion strategies with them, it enhances my knowledge. And when I mentor the young girls, there is also reverse mentoring that happens.
So, what are you waiting for? Seek out the mentor who can be a role model and an inspiration and take you to greater heights. Many of them are just one click away.
As Indra Nooyi said,
“If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching… Coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone — your husband, other family members, or your boss.”
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