Why Every Professional Needs a Mentor (or Three)

By Rachel Prine

Why Every Professional Needs a Mentor (or Three)

As I look back over my career, primarily in Human Resources and now as a Compensation Consultant, three women significantly changed my career trajectory and, subsequently, my life. These include a Ph.D. nurse, a retired HR executive, and a CEO. While they are each very different, they are all also very much the same.

In the last two years, I have reached out to each of these women to let them know they have influenced me (and many other lives) in ways I can never repay them. I will never forget each of them as a great friend and mentor. They all share the following characteristics, which help make them outstanding in their respective fields and as people.

They all have compassion.

They are all well aware that life can be messy and that we all make mistakes. Most mistakes will not entirely ruin someone’s life. However, they do tend to make things more difficult in the short term. Such blunders also often impact the bigger picture and later serve as potential role-play scenarios for acting and handling the mistake appropriately. Their capacity for compassion spans for others, both at work and home, with forgiving hearts full of grace.

They encourage others.

Encouragement is often the most effective method to bring out the best in people and in those around them. All 3 women are true professionals, unafraid to work alongside others, to dig into details, and communicate room for improvement. Whenever they spot areas that need to be enhanced, they address and talk about it in an encouraging and respectful way. They do not treat others as “less than” but instead as equals.

They see the “awesome” in everyone and every situation.

Some line managers believe and follow an “if you’re not cutting it, you must go” attitude and philosophy. If you measure the success of a fish by how far it can run, it will fail. If you measure the success of a fish by how far it can swim, there will be success. Each of my mentors know that environments are essential. Good leaders recognize talents, gifts, and abilities in others. Great leaders recognize, and even create, successful environments that both enable and empower others to do the same.

They are positive, not pushovers.

Just because these women have compassion, encourage others, and maintain optimistic outlooks in different situations does not mean they are pushovers! In fact, quite the opposite. These women actively find ways to challenge others without coddling them. They know it is ultimately a disservice to others if they do not set the bar high, set clear expectations, provide the necessary tools to succeed, and hold people accountable for results. This trio of high-performing, professional women know that complicated challenges often bring out their best.

They believe in honesty and providing feedback for growth.

Honest conversations can be hard. Refusing to shy away from difficult discussions is part of being a good team player, having transparent communication about what can be improved and what other things can be done. These mentors have achieved this level of feedback by delivering dignified assessment, without belittling, and ensuring the recipient understands what needs to be done to meet the expectations. Although they may each have different communication styles, they all know how to communicate effectively and honestly.

They champion for themselves and others.

Even though each of these 3 women are highly successful, none of them hog the limelight. Instead, they bring others with them into the light, and when appropriate, step away from it to let others shine in it. Every person has to be “championed” in different ways, has different needs, and responds in unique ways. As such, we seek different limelights. For them, equity may not always translate into exactly equal, but can still be obtained as long as everyone gets what they need.

I sincerely hope you have a former colleague, supervisor, or mentor that you remember in this manner. I have been fortunate to have three different women in my life who each fit this description, and have helped me to be happy and successful. I strive every day to be like them and to emulate these characteristics.

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