Bear with me here, because for this post I’m going to take you on a little journey.
I moved to Dallas almost exactly two years ago today and started working at my current job shortly after that (seriously, where has the time gone?!). This week, I’ve been reflecting on all the people who made that happen and all the people who have made this city home. For those of you who don’t know, I sought a lot of wisdom from a lot of people (a few of them being mentors) in making the decision to move to Dallas. While it wasn’t far from home, the move didn’t really make sense at the time.
When I started my job I quickly discovered that my company is the definition of team find-a-mentor. So much so that it is
almost forced upon you. From day one, you are assigned two people from the firm: one who is about a year ahead of you (to ask all your questions and make you feel at home as you start full-time) and another who is two levels above you (your mentor). Since you are assigned these people randomly, it doesn’t always work out perfectly. I’m lucky enough that the younger of those two did, and at the time, I didn’t think having both of those people (aka a mentor) was necessary. However, six months into work I felt a lot of things, including (yes, you can laugh at these): what the heck am I doing here, how will I ever learn all the things my team already knows, what if I want to do something different, how can I do better, what am I doing wrong…basically what I meant was HELP ME!
Now, who can help you navigate the answers to those questions? Your mentor: the person who has been through it all and then some, the person who can see the big picture, the person who can guide you to something you can’t even see yet. It wasn’t anything against who I was assigned, but I needed to find someone who could better counsel me in my career. I had mentors outside of my job before, but I quickly realized I needed someone who could guide me through this specific aspect of my life.
So, I started my search for this magical human who was going to help me. And here’s what I looked for.
We needed to share similar values.
To understand where I wanted to be, they needed to understand what I valued. Now, this doesn’t mean your mentor needs to be just like you (more on that later), but it does mean you need have some things in common. At the end of the day, your values influence your decisions. Your mentor may have trouble helping you navigate difficult decisions if they can’t comprehend your values.
I needed to be honest with them.
I’ll refer to her as my life mentor for the sake of this post, but I remember the first time we met for dinner. She sat down, looked me in the eye, and said, “if there is anything you feel like you can’t tell me, let’s address about that right now.” While it caught me off guard, I began to realize how important it is to be able to vocalize what you’re thinking / feeling / dreaming with your mentor. If you can’t do that, they can’t see the full picture…and they can’t guide you through something they can’t see.
They need to challenge you.
I think there is something incredible that happens when your mentor understands you, but can challenge you with a new perspective. I know that I need that. If you feel like they aren’t encouraging you to do something different, something better, something greater, or something more…then what are they encouraging you to do? Mentors don’t encourage complacency, they encourage growth.
Finding a mentor isn’t easy and heck, being mentored isn’t either. However, I am incredibly thankful for all the mentors I’ve had throughout my life. Why? They’re the reason I’m writing this post: they’ve made me face my fears, helped me navigate difficult decisions, and most importantly, make me dare to dream of doing something more.
My mentors? They make me better. And I hope yours will do the same for you.