mentorshipHaving a good mentor can make all the difference as you travel on your path toward success. While the saying ‘It’s all about who you know’ may be true, it’s also important to have someone in your corner to help you navigate the hard stuff. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They can be family, friends, teachers, bosses, or coworkers. I was fortunate to have several strong, inspiring mentors throughout my schooling and professional career.

One of my first mentors was a teacher from grammar school. I had always liked this teacher, even though I was never in her class. When my father passed away, this woman stayed late with me almost every day to help me cope and talk about my feelings. And while she suffered the same loss as a child, she wasn’t a therapist. She probably had no idea what to do or say, but she was there for me. She helped me stay focused on the things that matter. She helped me succeed through a time of personal turmoil.

My boss at my first job after college is another person I consider a mentor. Not only was my boss a very successful woman (she has a Princeton PhD, and is a highly successful market researcher) she was also an excellent mentor. At work, she pushed me to take on more responsibilities and gave me confidence in my projects. She would check in with me to see what I wanted to accomplish professionally and improve in the coming year. She would push for career advancement opportunities for me, such as conferences. She also provided me with relevant books in my field. She made me aware of common hurdles women face in the business world. I felt she really cared about me succeeding, personally and professionally. Even though I no longer work for her, we still keep in touch and I just finished a book she recommended!

All mentors should want you to succeed. Mutual respect has to exist for a mentorship to work. Mentors will push you to take risks and be a better person, but they won’t know it all. Also, keep in mind that a mentor and a friend are different. Mentors are not the ones you call at 3 am when you and your boyfriend breakup!

If you know someone who you would like to have as a mentor, contact them, ask to speak to them and get to know them better. Don’t be discouraged if everyone you would like to be your mentor doesn’t have time or does not want that responsibility. Finding a good mentor takes work, but once you find it, it’s worth it!