“2 years ago, I had never heard the word “mentor”. I feel funny seeing how naive I used to be.” says Sujata, before admitting “I was selected for a leadership program with Women LEAD, and I was “matched with a mentor”. Then I was asked “what do you expect from this year-long mentorship?” and I struggled to find an answer because I did not know what a mentor or mentorship was.”
The unexpected disaster
My first mentorship experience started with getting along with each other. We were quite in touch and talked about our lives. I found her to be kind and friendly. It was going fine initially, but it was not an intense relationship. Nothing much happened with this mentorship: maybe we were too busy in our own life; maybe we did not take the mentorship seriously.
The last time I met my mentor in person, I gave her an invitation card for my graduation ceremony at Women LEAD. When I called her to confirm her presence at my graduation, she said she does not know me. I told her who I was and why I was calling but she hang up the phone. Now, that was totally unexpected, and the last thing I wanted to hear from her. But it happened. And on my graduation day, she did not show up. In a split second, I lost my mentor, without knowing what really happened. I tried to reach her but was unsuccessful. I was stunned, stung by this bitter experience.
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
I moved on, and a year later, I saw another opportunity and applied for mentorship program of Wedu Fund. It was a hard decision for me after the bitter experience with my first mentor, but I chose to go for it. I got selected and when I started my mentorship, it started was quite the same: the same attempts to get along with each other and the same sharing of our lives. But I could feel its intensity from the initial days. I could feel the determination of my mentor to help me out. The awkwardness diminished gradually.
Every time we talked, I learnt something. I felt more and more confident. I started believing in myself more than ever. I found myself more and more ready to step out of my comfort zone. He introduced me to inspiring people from his network. His struggles always inspire me because he shares both his success and failure stories with the same enthusiasm. I could see myself improving. I would not say he brought out a new me, but he definitely he brought better out of me.
Paying forward is reaping benefits
While being mentored, Women LEAD offered me a chance to mentor a younger girl. And all those things I learned from my two mentors, I applied myself while mentoring her. I did all I could. Over the year, I observed her grow from ground level to sky. It was interesting to see hear her saying how grateful she was for having me as a mentor because from my perspective, it was very clear that everything she achieved was due to her own efforts.
If I’m honest, my goal was to not make her “first” mentorship experience a bad one. I focused my attention on adding value to her life. After a year of mentoring I attended her graduation ceremony, and to my big surprise I received the Best Mentor award. It was an amazing moment for me because I discovered that I could help someone else what was helped: a man mentored a girl so well that she grew to be useful to someone else!
What makes a good mentor
From my experience, a good mentor can change your life. It does not necessarily have to be someone with bells and whistles: you just need to take the relationship seriously, and apply yourself to get the most out of your mentor.
After my two experiences being mentored and discovering the success of my first experience as a mentor, I have observed that a good mentor would...
... always encourage you
... believe in you
... make you try something new (to even fail in my case)
... share personal stories including success and failure
... inspire you
... facilitate but let you decide
... do some homework before answering you
... more likely be your friend
... help you overcome your weaknesses and build your strengths
... link you with his/her own network
Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I made mistakes with my first mentor. With the second opportunity, I was determined not to repeat that. Now I am proud to have Noam Kostucki as my mentor, and to pay it forward by mentoring someone younger.
That's why I believe today that, indeed, we all need a mentor.
- Who are all the people who’ve mentored you over the years?
- Who are all the people you’ve mentored?
- When you look for a new mentor, what qualities are you looking for?
- Learn more about how to find the best mentors and keep them with the book Seek to Keep