A guide to finding and keeping a career mentor

From left to right: Forbes “30 under 30” members Edun Full, Kane Sarhan, Meg Gill and Mark Arnoldy.  Credit: Provided
From left to right: Forbes “30 under 30” members Eden Full, Kane Sarhan, Meg Gill and Mark Arnoldy.
Credit: Provided

Navigating the world of business can be tough — especially when you are in the early stages of your career. Finding a mentor can be a key to success.

 Enter the Every Day Connect campaign, a new project sponsored by Fairfield Inn and Suites as a way to support the connections between young professionals and the mentors who have encouraged them.

“I think mentorship is important to everyone, but a lot of people are afraid to reach out,” says Fairfield Inn’s Vice President of Global Brand Management Shruti Buckley. “But right now the workforce is so competitive, so it’s more important than ever to build those relationships.”

A survey commissioned by Fairfield revealed that 66 percent of professionals say personal relationships have helped them in their careers. We talked to four young entrepreneurs  who are serving as ambassadors for Every Day Connect, all of whom were named to the Forbes “30 under 30” 2014 list for their suggestions on how foster a strong mentoring network.

Don’t think of it as formally finding a ‘mentor’

Kane Sarhan, who co-founded @Enstitute, a program that matches young people with entrepreneurial apprenticeships, says the best mentoring relationships come about organically. “We find with a lot of our students, mentors just develop naturally once you find someone you connect with,” he says.  “Those really strong personal relationships really are long lasting.”

Find someone you can bounce ideas off of

“It’s always good to have different people, opinions and perspectives around,” explains Eden Full, the creator of SunSaluter, a device that makes solar panels more efficient. Full says her mentor has been instrumental in the early growth of her company. “Just talking things through and weighing the pros and cons was really key to making the right decisions,” she says.

Be persistent without being annoying

Full also stresses that you shouldn’t give up if there is a particular person you want to connect with. “If someone doesn’t respond to your email [right away], there are so many reasons why,” she points out. At the same time, remember to respect your mentor’s time. “Be humble and assertive, but not necessarily aggressive,” says Meg Gill, an executive with Golden Road Brewing.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

If you are shy about approaching someone in your field, don’t be. Fairfield’s survey reveals that 77 percent of employed adults said they were willing to help new grads find work. But it’s important that young people show that they are serious.

“I didn’t go out looking for mentors,” says Gill. “I went out looking to learn. A lot of people don’t just let someone come up to them, so you have to be passionate about something.”

Let your mentor know the impact they’ve had

Always remember to let your mentors and advisors know that you appreciate them. “I’m constantly showing gratitude towards my mentors,” says Sarhan. “A lot of times, one problem with my generation is the lack of humility,” says the 26-year old. He points out doing things as simple as sending thank you cards, birthday presents and just calling to catch up can go a long way.

You should be working to help your mentor, too

Mentoring isn’t a one-way street. Mark Arnoldy is the Executive Director of Nyaya Health, which works to bring healthcare to remote parts of Nepal. He says younger workers shouldn’t discount their unique take on the world.  “If you are sincere in your generosity, great things will come your way and ‘networking’ can be a source of joy rather than something slimy and shallow,” he says.

 Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.


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