By Lauren Davenport, CEO and founder of The Symphony Agency
It’s not unusual for careers to get off to wobbly starts as young people, hampered by their lack of experience and contacts, find it difficult to achieve a firm footing.
That’s one reason they should make it a goal to find mentors who could help guide them through the rough patches.
One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is that person’s success can act as a catalyst for your belief in yourself.
It’s also a way to expand your network because a mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.
While mentors can be a great asset for young people in their career advancement, don’t expect the mentor to materialize out of nowhere and then do all the heavy lifting. Much of the onus is on the mentee to seek the relationship, cultivate it and make the most of it.
A few ways to do that include:
• Don’t be afraid to reach out. A simple LinkedIn search can help you find people who are currently in your dream job. Somehow, they managed to get the very thing you want. How did they pull that off? Send them a short message and tell them your aspirations. Ask if they can spare 30 minutes for you to visit their office and “pick their brains” about how they achieved success.
• Do your homework. After you went to all the trouble to set up that meeting, you don’t want to show up unprepared. Learn all you can about this potential mentor with a Google search. Write down any questions you want to ask. For the meeting, dress like you already have a job with the person’s company and be 10 minutes early.
• Join a networking organization. If reaching out to an individual isn’t in your comfort zone, seek a networking organization that focuses on career growth. Sign up for a MeetUp group taught by someone you admire. Take notes as the person speaks. After the event, you’re also going to need to muster up the courage to introduce yourself. To find a good mentor, in most cases you really are going to need to take the first step.
• Pay attention to the mentor’s advice. You may not follow through on every suggestion, but you do need to listen to what they have to say. After all, the wisdom and experience they can provide is the whole point of having a mentor. I recall early in my career joining a networking group and trying to pitch my company to the members without success. I mentioned to my mentor my inability to generate any business. She told me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a business woman I needed to change my wardrobe. I put away the summer dresses I typically wore and bought some tailored jackets and other clothes that helped present a business-professional look. Soon after, business picked up.
I still actively seek women who are in my industry and at similar career levels.
Sometimes they even work for competitors. We don’t share any company secrets, but we often are experiencing similar struggles, so we swap stories and give each other advice on how to overcome those challenges.
Lauren Davenport is chief executive officer at The Symphony Agency. She founded the company after discovering that businesses were struggling to understand how to implement marketing and technology to reach their full potential in the digital age. Her natural entrepreneurial drive grew the organization from a boutique consulting business into a multi-million dollar agency. She is a contributor for the New York Daily News and has been featured on PBS, ABC Action News, iHeartRadio, AMEX OPEN, and more.