From an early age I realized the value of a mentor in your life.
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Like most girls, my mom was my first mentor, setting the standard of how to be a good human being and to always treat others how I would want to be treated. Early on, she established that Golden Rule.
Going through high school and college, I had coaches and teachers who taught me if I wanted to make a difference or to be successful in my school and community, I needed to get involved and work hard. After college, I moved back to Lafayette and was eager to get involved and also to network with other people in the business community. This is where I discovered the true importance of mentors.
Working with a mentor can be an irreplaceable experience for a young professional. When looking for mentors, think about what you’d like to learn more about.
For me, I was looking for strong businessmen or women who were leaders in their own businesses, and who were involved in the community. The advice and knowledge that propels someone forward in their career, or that provides the extra push to succeed often comes in the form of a mentor.
There is no substitute for the access you have to another person you trust who can teach from their own experiences. Here are a few things that you should look for in a strong mentor:
• A mentor should be someone who will help you grow, move forward, challenge you, and push you to be your best. Someone who is going to advocate for you in your professional and sometimes even personal life.
• A mentor should have no vested interest in telling you what you want to hear, but will tell you what you need to hear to succeed. Beware of the mentor who only wants to use you as a “mouthpiece” for their own cause.
• The key to making a mentoring relationship successful is to make sure that it’s mutually beneficial. You should be willing to support your mentor in their projects and not call/email only when you need advice.
• You also should be mindful of your mentor’s time and busy schedule; don’t try to set up too many meetings and don’t forward irrelevant spam emails.
If you find a mentor who is currently in a position or career you would like to achieve, he/she can help you set your goals and identify the skills and experience needed in order to move closer to those goals. It is as simple as calling that person and asking to meet them for a cup of coffee (you offer to pay, of course) and talk about what they did professionally to get where they are today.
Many young professionals see potential mentors as unapproachable and assume they just don’t have time to talk to you. You can’t forget that those same people started their careers somewhere and may have had the moral support of a mentor in those early years. Chances are they’re ready to “give back” and share some wisdom with you.
Liz Hebert began her career at the Cajundome in 2008 as convention sales manager, where she books events held in the Arena and Convention Center. During her professional career she has served on the board of the Leadership Institute of Acadiana and the705 Young. She is currently president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana and program chair for Leadership Lafayette. She was also a graduate of the program in Class 23. In 2013, Liz was selected as one of the Top 20 Young Professionals Under 40 in Acadiana.