Mentorship kickoff 2.0 – the mentor profile
Have you noticed how similar all Oscar winners’ speeches are or any winning speech for that matter? They usually include big heartfelt thank you to family, colleagues and to those who gave them the chance to compete on the big stage.
I have often asked myself what my speech would be about – who am I going to thank?
We tend to own our successes but we cannot attribute it solely on our own actions and talents. Our life is shaped by our thoughts, experiences and the people we meet. People affect us in both positive and negative ways, whether we want it or not, and are linked directly to our happiness (I have stressed on the importance of investing in relationships as a mentee). It’s preferable to surround yourself with good people, who share the same values as you, who help you grow or just encourage you to get out of your comfort zone.
Mentors are such kind of people and I’m lucky to have had several outstanding personalities next to me who navigated me through my professional and personal development.
Where to find a mentor?
What’s funny about mentors is that sometimes you might not even know they are your mentors in the first place.
For example, during my internship in the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria the Passy’s – my first bosses during my first serious work – were my first mentors as well. Back then I did not know that but with the perspective of time I realized they were the ones who set my work ethics, my habits and my attitude towards risk-taking, creativity, and set the standards of professionalism as a whole. Especially Mrs. Passy – she was the one I shared all my troubles, worries and aspirations. She was the one who listened, without judgement, usually just asking questions with empathy, open to hear whatever I have to say. Mrs. Passy knew my strengths and weaknesses and she knew how to get the best out of me. She promoted and included me in exciting projects, gave me autonomy and congratulated me on every small and insignificant success.
Then, a mentor might just as well be a family-member. For instance, my sister-in-law, Filipka, has supported me during all my job challenges and struggles. How to discuss a raise with my boss? Is my CV a good one? ( I used her template when I first made my CV) How to initiate tough conversations? She was the one who gave advice and guidance. She told me to subscribe to HBR “Management tip of the day” for which I would be forever grateful to her. I was sure she had my best interest at heart which was reassuring and truly generous of her.
Now I am a mentee in the international female oriented mentorship program Odyssey where a top executive volunteer is matched with an entrepreneur or junior. This is how I met Lily – a successful woman in the same business domain as mine (facility management/real estate). For the last year, we have worked together discussing my career, my setbacks, my character, etc. She has a rich professional background and lot’s of know-how to share – started businesses, closed some, being a CEO, managing through a crisis and is also a yoga teacher and super fun. Being a co-founder myself, I can learn so much from her – how to negotiate with your partners, how to scale your business, etc.
My takeaway is if you are asking yourself where to find a mentor, think twice – maybe you have already found one? Or just look everywhere.
I as a Mentor
All of the above-mentioned people have been role-models to me and great mentors. They set a high bar on being a good mentor and they have thought me, unintentionally, what’s the
must haves when being a mentor. Namely, providing guidance, showing empathy, inspiring by setting an example yourself.
My most extensive experience as a mentor (in 2019) was as a participant in the pilot year of the Teenovator program in Bulgaria – the mission of the program, started originally in Slovenia, is to create start-up clubs at schools and promote entrepreneurship. For a year, together with another entrepreneur, I was mentoring 17-18 years old students from a Sofia high school about the basics of how to start a business, the mindset of the entrepreneur, finding customers and many more topics. It was one of the toughest and most rewarding episodes of my life. We played games, we argued, we celebrated successes and learnt from failures. On the bright side, I had guidelines and a detailed program to follow, but I am talking about 17-18 years old youngsters. Keeping them accountable and at the same time being their friend, not a teacher was a risky balance. What’s more – I learnt as much as them – you need a step back, to move forward.
Another life-changing moment was being an Entrepreneur in Residence in Vietnam, where I had to work with Vietnamese entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders. I faced the realities of different cultures and politics, different ways of doing things in general. Then I was convinced that in order to motivate and influence positively somebody you need to show passion and set personal examples. Such programs are a test. To show confidence, perseverance, energy. And at the same time, demonstrate you are a vulnerable trusted person who has emotional intelligence and capable of real connection.
Patience is crucial – not forcing and overdoing it, going with the pace of your mentees. Trusting the process and time that there is progress. That everything is as it should be and it’s just fine.
You? A mentor?
I have never had a goal to become a mentor. We, people, tend to undervalue our knowledge, abilities and skills. We wait for something or someone to reassure us, as if they can give us the freedom to act and be.
This has happened to me, so I want to pay it forward. What’s your Superman strength, your mistakes you have learnt-from and might be beneficial to others. It does need to be unique but real. Someone is waiting and searching for you – be proactive.
Or for a start, be the hero you are right now and volunteer at TimeHeroes.
Continue reading: Why a (turned on) camera does not turn us on?