Looking for someone to help you achieve more? Need advice about advancing in your chosen field? Want to make improvements in your personal life and don’t know how to start?
A mentor could be the answer. The ideal individual has the background and willingness to make suggestions and guide you in the next steps on your journey.
College students often find mentoring programs on campus to help them connect with people such as faculty, alumni and even older students who can offer counsel and feedback. But what about folks who have been out of school for a while?
“It’s never too late to find a mentor,” says Casandra Henriquez ’04, MPH ’06. She is a successful life coach—essentially a paid mentor—who has assisted clients with everything from wellness to business and, most recently, their love lives.
She and her husband identified a pair of mentors—a married couple like themselves—to help them professionally and personally. They looked around carefully for “people who were where we wanted to be. We sought out these individuals, and when we found a good match we literally asked them, ‘Could we be under your wing?’”
Once a quarter the four go to lunch together and have a candid conversation about marriage and careers, she says. And it’s something she encourages others to do, for an important reason: “Greatness rubs off just by being in good company.”
Here are Henriquez’s suggestions for discovering and working with your sherpa.
1) Figure out where your struggle is or what you would like to enhance in your life, whether personal or professional. Everybody has an area in which they can improve.
2) Find somebody who’s doing well in that area and choose to spend time with them. Look around and decide who has achieved the kind of success you would like attain. This could be someone you know or someone you identify through research.
3) Be a resource for the other person. Once someone agrees to mentor you, try to help him or her in return. Share a potential business contact, for example, or pass along an article you think might be useful.
4) Don’t make interacting with you a task. Everyone’s to-do list is already full. So don’t send long emails and don’t ask for a meeting over coffee when you know that will be a stretch for the other person. Instead, understand what works for both of you, even if that comes down to scheduled phone calls.
5) Say ‘thank you.’ Henriquez recommends a handwritten note to acknowledge that others’ time is valuable and you appreciate it. That simple but heartfelt gesture of gratitude, she says, “doesn’t get old at all.” ♦