In partnership with The Lincoln Motor Company, we kicked off our Mama Mentors program at an event in Denver (though there are many more upcoming Mama Mentors events across the country!). Lincoln believes the journey should be exhilarating, not exhausting. The same goes for finding someone to give you sound advice.
At the home of our host Orly Eisbart, we gathered a circle of career-oriented mentors to provide guidance on how we can build, sustain, and manage a life of mom and boss. Here are the four thought leaders we had the privilege of learning from:
Karen Frame, CEO and co-founder of Makeena. She is an entrepreneur in the technology sphere who believes in giving back and making the world the better place.
Dianne Myles, CEO of Dope Mom Life and Grants Manager at AJL Foundation. A former teen mom of two, she started Dope Mom Life as a mommy vlog to serve as a role model and inspiration to her community.
Cheryl Nelson Boyd, financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial. She specializes in helping working women navigate their unique financial needs and challenges in the workplace.
Beverley Mitchell, actress, singer, and creator of The Awesomeness Family. She is passionate about instilling confidence in others, and supporting them as they discover and own their awesomeness.
These are determined mama mentors dedicated to finding a better way forward for all of us. Realistically, though, they can’t directly connect with every mama in need of mentorship. That’s why we’re breaking down the ins and outs of mentoring relationships, what it means to be a good mentor, and what it takes to be a good mentee. With these insights, any mama can benefit from mentorship, whether they’re an experienced person sharing their knowledge or a protégé learning the basics.
A mentor is an experienced adviser or trusted counselor. There are many different types of mentors, from youth mentoring programs to professional development teams. Mentorship can really be offered in any subject you might imagine; the only constant is that the mentor must have some proven expertise in the subject or skill that the mentee wants to learn about or improve upon. In other words: you probably wouldn’t take motherhood advice from a kindergartener.
Mentorship is a two-way street. The mentor has to be dedicated to providing guidance, even though it can be difficult to support oneself and support a newcomer learning the ropes. Likewise, the mentee has to be dedicated to learning and accepting constructive criticism, even though it may be challenging. Overall, communication is key.
Consider what one of our mama mentors, Cheryl Nelson-Boyd, says about her own mentoring relationship: “I had a mentor in the first decade of my career who was equal parts my biggest cheerleader and my most consistent challenge. I know he saw the best in me and was a major support of my growth, but he also never sugarcoated anything about the work I would need to do to get where I wanted to be.”
The benefits of mentorship can be profound for both personal goals and career goals. According to the analysis of forty-three studies on mentoring impact, mentored employees receive higher compensation, receive a greater number of promotions, and feel more committed to their career. For many people in business, building a relationship with a mentor has been critical to their success, especially for working women in historically male-dominated spaces.
The best mentors, aside from being experts in their field, are people who are passionate about “paying it forward.” Most often, as in Cheryl’s case, those who make great mentors once had their own great mentor. These people have an intimate understanding of the vital impact that a mentor can make on someone’s life, and they also know firsthand the qualities of a dedicated mentee who is capable of absorbing (and actually implementing!) good advice.
Great mentors aren’t motivated by ego. They don’t share their wisdom just because they believe it’s right. Great mentors share wisdom based on real experience; they educate mentees with tips that they have actually used and seen work.
So how do you pick a mentor? Cheryl says, “When you are looking for a mentor, it’s easy to gravitate towards someone like you. However, in my experience, the best teachers are nothing like me and make me uncomfortable. Find someone who likes the truth more than they like you.”
There should always be a sense of integrity in a mentoring relationship. That means a good mentor is someone who isn’t afraid to contradict you or challenge your assumptions (in a respectful way, of course!). You should be nudged outside of your comfort zone. A mentor who is more interested in being your friend than helping you improve is not going to move the needle for you professionally.
Mentorship is a partnership, and like any good partnership, it should be mutually beneficial. If you’re interested in mentoring in others, you should have certain expectations in place. Your mentee should be someone who is honest with their motivations, authentic in their commitment, and forthright when they’re feeling confused. They should be someone who can be critiqued without feeling attacked.
As the mentor, you also need to be honest with your prospective mentee and with yourself. Do you truly believe your mentee is willing to dedicate the time and energy it takes to improve? If not, it may not be a good idea to enter into a mentoring relationship. You want to help someone who respects you, your effort, and the support you give. If the prospective mentee merely wants to rub shoulders with you to advance their career, you can politely decline to mentor them, or refer them to someone who may be a better fit. Ultimately, when mentoring feels more like networking, something’s gone wrong.
Typically, being a mentor to someone who shares your passion but lacks your experience is an extremely rewarding experience.
If you’re looking to join a powerful community for working mothers in search of peer-to-peer mentoring, guidance, resources, and support, please apply to join HeyMama. Be sure to check out our upcoming Mama Mentors events in partnership with Lincoln! You never know what connections might be waiting for you.
Want to read more about mentorship? On HeyMama, you can get expert motherhood advice from The Parenting Mentor, ride in style with spiritual mentor Nikki Novo, and check out our curated list of executive leadership and life coaches to help you level up.
Photos by Rebecca of Flytographer.