Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I knew how to do everything included in my job description. I was a bellydancing at a Moroccan restaurant and teaching bellydance classes. My days were filled with obsessively making bellydance costumes, searching for new Middle-Eastern music and rehearsing. I made some extra money by selling my Goddess Workout video to my dance students that I recently produced. Then, a student, who was a writer for Sex and the City wrote about The Goddess Workout into an episode. Suddenly my life changed. I was in business. I mean business, as in becoming incorporated with stockholders, officers, lawyers, accountants, spreadsheets and an account at Staples. I was thrown into an alternate universe with aliens who spoke a bizarre language. I needed a guide to navigate the new strange world…I needed a mentor.
Patiently I waited for the equivalent of the 'Career Fairy' to come down and appoint me a divine mentor. But, as I came to find, these types of relationships take chemistry, synergy and trust, none of which happen overnight.
After much ado of tedious networking functions, phone calls, out crying out to my ‘Career Fairy’, I found a mentor. We worked together for our allotted six-month period and then I was back out there searching for my ideal match. After working with my first mentor, I learned what I was looking for in my next mentor. I was on my own for a while. Then one night at a cocktail fete in Kuwait, over a baba ghannouj hors d'oeuvres and glass of champagne, I met her. She is the first female Ambassador to Kuwait, Deborah K. Jones. She has the courage to enter into Kuwaiti Parliament without a hijab (Islamic head scarf) and have heated debates with Arabic politicians! It was love at first sight and we lived happily ever after.
Why are mentors important?
I recommend finding a mentor at any stage of your career. Whether you are still trying to find your path, looking to be promoted within your company or growing your company, mentors are invaluable.
It's all about perspective. Mentors can provide institutional knowledge about your employer, your industry and the politics involved in both. Mentors allow you the benefit of their experience to see around corners and anticipate what is coming at you so you can make better decisions.
How do you recruit someone for this role?
1) Network – Attend networking groups, seminars and don’t rule out online opportunities. It takes getting out of your comfort zone and keeping yourself in success driven environments.
2) Bloom Where You are Planted - One of my mentors once told me I needed to “bloom where I am planted”. The same holds true for finding a mentor, because chances are, your future mentor is someone you already know! To begin searching for a mentor, sit down and think of two things: a) what you hope to get out of a mentoring partnership, and b) the names of people you regularly interact with who may have the life experience and expertise you are seeking.
3) The Generous Guru - Every professional association and chamber of commerce has at least one, a very seasoned expert who is willing to share his or her network and expertise with rising stars and beginners. Don’t be afraid to ask for the kind of coaching or advice you need.
4) Nationally Affiliated Organizations - Visit http://www.mentoring.org/ and/or http://findamentor.org/ to find a mentor.
5) Become a Mentor – This can be after you have been mentored or before. Becoming a mentor will teach you how to effectively learn from a mentor, how you like to be mentored (their style – such as gentle or pushy), questions to ask, how often you should meet, etc.
Becoming a mentor someday should be your goal. It means that someone aspires to be like you. It is also the way to “Pay it forward” as gratitude for the people that were generous and gave their time and knowledge to mentor you. You can register to become a mentor on the websites I mentioned in #4.