Would you believe me if I said I never had a mentor during the first 6 years of my entrepreneurship and career journey? One main reason for this (so I thought) was that what I was attempting to do, what others haven’t done before. Another reason was that I was so occupied in just getting stuff done (I wasn’t about that Scrum Life, but now I am. bloop…but I digress), that I quickly got swept by the workload and tasks that needed to be done (working hard NOT smart).
I had little time to speak to friends let alone search and commune with a mentor. But now, I’m sorta glad I didn’t find a mentor. I’ve learned to understand what I really needed, and trust me babes it wasn’t a MENTOR.
Overall, many people talk a ton about having mentors, but I finally came to realize and believe it’s more important to have, an ambassador: someone who champions for you or sponsors your endeavors if need be.
There is an incredible difference between them all. Generally speaking, a mentor will guide you, perhaps assist you along your journey, whereas an ambassador, champion or sponsor will straight get you to your destination.
“Generally speaking, a mentor will guide you, perhaps assist you along your journey, whereas an ambassador, champion or sponsor will straight get you to your destination.” @adiatdisu
Nevertheless, before I understood the aforementioned I began to enter into the “find-a-mentor-mode” and had a particular kind in mind, yet could not find the perfect fit. They were either too busy, too different or just too too much!
Let’s just say that the search took quite a while. I was still operating under the belief that it needed to be someone a lot older. A person with tons and tons of experience, who would give me a certain number of hours, help me with professional affiliations and bring me industry magazine cut-outs.
Mentoring is evolving, and the dynamics of this great relationship are changing. Career newbies are not the only ones in need of mentoring, and it does not have to be a Father-Son relationship.
If you’re still in the market for a mentor, these tips will make mentor-shopping less troublesome.
Ask Yourself Why
Ask yourself why you need a guide and which goals you need to meet. A mentor needs to know why he or she is required so you might need to sell yourself.
What are you in the market for? Do you need a mentor that will give you 3 hours each week? Or is it o.k. If she/he is always available for quick counsel on your messaging app?
Nothing attracts a potential mentor like a mentee who is hungry for knowledge. You have to understand that the mentor/mentee relationship is a learning process for both parties. The mentee learns but so does the mentor. The mentor is constantly reminded of lessons learned and forgotten and is treated to a fresh perspective on various issues.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
The typical mentor wants a mentee with star potential and evidence of growth as time goes on. Let’s call it been able to see a return on investment. Any mentor investing time and experience wants to see that these efforts are not in vain. He or she will feel much satisfaction when you start receiving commendations at work, making headway in your field and getting assigned more strategic tasks as a result of his or her mentoring.
Make Sure Opportunity Meets Preparation
Requesting a mentoring relationship can be tricky if you have not been working very long. This might be due to issues regarding hierarchy or respect. Do not be intimidated. If you have your sights on someone in that circle, then you should find out more about that person as regards interests, dislikes, and professional beliefs. Take advantage of chance meetings. Instead of mumbling a greeting and hurrying off, smile respectfully and introduce yourself. If a chat opportunity occurs, be engaging, eager but not flippant. You can be sure that you will be granted audience soon enough. Are you a mentor on the lookout for a mentee or vice versa?
Pick Those Who Have Come Before You And Don’t Look Like You
I kept looking for champions within my circle of friends or those in the same industry. What I found was that many who were around my age group faced similar challenges or worse, became easily enticed by my journey (they began to adopt the same business plan I had …YIKES!).
I realized later on that I was trying to gain support and help from people who had the same struggles as I…..not smart.
I needed to (and I did) quickly realize that working with people who don’t think like you, want what you want, or look like you has a TON of benefits.
The reality is that most of my breakthroughs in life have come from people who are in COMPLETELY different industries, NOT friends, not women, nor are black, or African.
This is NOT to say that I haven’t been blessed by people in the aforementioned categories. But I’ve learned NOT to expect any from these groups just because I am a part of them and appreciate everything from them, when they do come through.
Hey there! I’m Sade Disu and founded an award-winning 15-year-old digital media and marketing agency And Brand Culture where I provide culture-focused advisory, storytelling, and content solutions for Executives and startup founders looking to increase engagement with multi-cultural audiences and media platforms organically.
My content strategies and proprietary live event platforms (like AfricaFashionWeek.com) are deemed unmatched for their convening power of global content, culture, and empowerment according to Forbes, LA Times, Essence, and Black Enterprise. And even more, was given a proclamation, by former Mayor of New York (now Presidential candidate) Michael Bloomberg in 2010.
Africa Fashion Week results increased brand awareness 8.5 million views; $300+ K in revenue generated per event, and 6 K+ newsletter subscribers per event. Media giants such as Hearst Magazines caught wind of my work and influence — the ability to connect to and with consumers through cultural content and experiential solutions. HEARST immediately hired my consultancy to advise, produce content, and launch its international spin-off of COSMOPOLITAN Nigeria.
My press-ordained and award-winning event platforms and digital content work have been leveraged by Shea Moisture, Kimora Lee Simons, Iman Cosmetics, Pikolinos, Zara, Roommate Hotels, and USAID. ( 4-page press feature in Black Enterprise and 2-page press feature in Forbes French Edition.)
Clients have used my four-tier prong approach “culture + content” = “community + commerce” when looking to connect with audiences with nuisance cultures and attitudes.