By Susan Hatten
In the fall of 2007 when I was 25, I was asked to join the Emerging Leaders team within my company and was eager to be a part of this group. The purpose of the Emerging Leaders program was to target young talent who may be supported, encouraged and molded to take on future leadership roles in the company.
One of the assignments was to reach out to an individual who could serve as our mentor during the course. Many of my colleagues asked someone within our company, but I wanted a mentor who would provide me with a third-party perspective and worldly view of leadership. I went straight to the top–the impeccable and inspirational Connie Wimer.
I credit my company for encouraging us to locate a mentor and value my years of meeting and conversing with Connie. She not only has provided insight, guidance and encouragement, but she has been there as I’ve dealt with personal situations, financial hurdles and heartache. Our relationship moved from mentor/mentee to a true and lasting friendship, for which I will be forever grateful.
Rewind back to 1979. My mother was 25, the same age I was as I began my first experience with my mentor. I wonder where my mother’s career may have gone had she sought out a mentor. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that you began to hear about formal mentor and coaching roles within the professional community.
Research continues to show that professionals with mentors exceed those without mentors in leadership opportunities, compensation, easier access to board positions, lower drug/alcohol use, and more.
As I researched mentor relationships, I uncovered the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, a program that connects talented, emerging women leaders from all over the world between the ages of 25-43 with members of Fortune’s list of “Most Powerful Women Leaders” for a month-long program. How cool is this! Yet another formal program put into place to encourage linking young leaders with seasoned leaders.
I am presently embarking on a career change of my own and know that my mentors will guide me through the transition. I also know that I will seek new mentors within my organization who can offer fresh perspectives on our industry and help me reach my professional and personal goals.
My advice to young professionals: Reach out. Don’t wait for our leaders of today to reach out to you, and do not wait to be asked. Show your initiative by taking a moment to place a call to someone you respect and admire, and be sure you know precisely what you are asking of him or her.
Seeking a mentor is a thoughtful investment in your future, and one in which the ROI will far surpass your up-front personal outlay. You will reap the rewards incrementally, and if you are as fortunate as I have been, you will uncover a friendship to last a lifetime.