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Mentors: Your Personal Board of Directors

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Mar. 14 2012, Published 12:19 p.m. ET

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When on the career path, typically the magic word is internship, but the true magic word is mentorship. Getting a mentor opens you up to a world of experiences, valuable advice, and countless opportunties for growth. He or she is someone you touch base with when a major decision arises, or when inspiration for a new idea comes upon you and you’re unsure of what the next step is. He or she is often where you want to be when you get older–either personally or professionally. And, ideally, you are who they were when they were your age– wide eyed, bright eyed, ambitious and full of potential.

Mentorship is especially important for “marginalized” groups including women. An article in Black Enterprise highlighted an important percentage: “[A] New York City-based nonprofit research and advisory organization found that more than 70% of those with multiple mentors were promoted, compared to 50% of those without them.” Many women who benefited from a mentor’s guidance say it helped them advance their career, especially when coming of age. Role models and mentors are necessary resources for women on the road to success.

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But, what mentees often forget, is that the mentor-mentee relationship is a two way street. Its not all about what you can get out of it, but its about what you can put into it. As a mentee, you may feel you don’t have much to offer, but the reward the mentor receives is through the accomplishments and growth of the mentee. Also, though new to this game called life, and the career world, you are valuable because of your fresh perspective and excitement about the industry.

Most important, in order for the mentee-mentor relationship to remain strong, the mentor should not be the only one to reach out to set up meet ups or lunches, the mentee must initiate, reach out and keep the mentor up to date. Chances are the mentor is busy, and its not that they are being neglectful but they may be consumed in their work. The key is to be patient, and to be thankful and appreciative of their time.

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Another important thing to keep in mind when entering the world of mentorship is to not limit yourself to just one mentor. Everyone should have at least 5 mentors, serving as your personal board of directors. You should think of yourself, and your life as a company and your mentors as the executives to utilize to make major decisions and help steer the company in the right direction. You can have both personal and professional mentors, formal and informal, and mentors from both sides of the gender spectrum. If you are a girl, don’t limit yourself to only women mentors, and if you are a guy don’t limit yourself to only men.

So, how do you find these mentors and get your life steered into the right direction? Here are a few tips!

In the workplace. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and really learn from people in your immediate work environment. If there is someone there who you really admire, take the next step and ask them to coffee and sometimes the mentor-mentee relationship can grow organically through your intereactions. You don’t always need to formally ask someone to be your mentor, sometimes it happens naturally.

Join professional organizations. If you are the shy type many professional organizations set up formal mentorship programs. Also the intimate settings of the meetings, workships and panels hosted by the organization gives space for networking, connecting and opens the door for a relationship with a mentor to develop.

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Attend conferences. Conferences are a great way to both meet peers within your industry but to also get to know more experienced professionals. (hint: they are often the ones speaking at the conference). They are there primarily to share wisdom and give advice based upon their experience so they may be open to connecting further with you if you have the right approach.

Tune into social media. This is a plus especially if you are involved somehow in the music or media industries. Its becoming essential for many professionals to develop a brand presence within the social media world. Some simply use their profiles for work related updates and broadcasts, but some really manage to integrate the personal and professional updates and reflections. Following people you admire on twitter can be a way to connect with them and learn from them in the form of a digital mentorship.

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Take it a step further reach out by email. If there is someone who you came across through social media, take it a step further and send them an email if you would like a chance to meet them. Even if they do not respond, chances are they read it. Then, if you happen to run into that person when they are speaking at a conference you have that as a springboard for conversation!

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What tips or questions do you have about finding mentors?

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By: Rhonesha Byng

Rhonesha Byng is the founder and CEO of Her Agenda— a digital media platform bridging the gap between ambition and achievement for millennial women. The site provides access to content and community that gives millennial women access to information and inspiration to help them get started or to move to the next level of their career. Rhonesha is an Emmy award-winning journalist and entrepreneur whose philosophy in life is established by her acronym of N.E.S.H.A. No one Ever Slows Her Agenda. This motto served as the inspiration for Her Agenda. Rhonesha was named to the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list and ESSENCE magazine named her among 50 Founders To Watch. Rhonesha is also the co-founder of the newly formed nonprofit org The Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute (BOMESI).

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