January 29, 2016 — Despite the fact that National Mentoring Month is only recognized in the United States, there are several positive examples of mentor relationships across the world. In this installment of our National Mentoring Month series Manvi Pant, a CRM professional at A.T. Kearney in India, shares how she met her mentors, how they have had a positive influence on her life, and her best advice for finding a mentor and cultivating a relationship with one. Check out the interview below!
1) How did you meet your mentor?
I met my first mentor five years ago when I was enrolled in my Pre-PhD course. My personal circumstances were tough at that time. I was 24, wasn’t working, and I had to decide whether to take another five years to pursue my PhD or quit and start working. I really wanted to get into academic writing and research work, so I finally took the plunge and left my PhD program to join the Foundation of Education and Research (FORE). That was where I met my first mentor. She was the head of the Human Resource Department. The first thing she taught me was accountability. She never tested my ability to perform—she believed in me.
I met my second mentor when I left FORE and got a call from a top management consulting firm. He was a friend of a friend, and I owe much of my success to him. There are very few people who are ready to devote their time to your learning—mentoring is a long, continuous process and you need to be constantly patient with your mentee. I credit him for his patience in teaching me how to get to where I am today.
2) How have your mentors inspired you to overcome obstacles and forge forward in your personal and professional life?
Mentoring, if done in the best way possible, gives direction that is invaluable to the person seeking it. Mentoring can shape your career and life. It’s a two-way street: for a mentor, it takes maturity to nurture a person; for a mentee, you must be open to the pool of guidance that shapes a thought process. My mentors did not let me depend on them at any given point in time, and there was a balance between us. Though we had a personal rapport, I was always respectful of the sensitivity of these relationships. At the same time, I never felt intimidated or afraid to reach out to them.
Both of my mentors were inspiring in their own way. What they had in common was the ability to motivate. I can say that after five years of working on myself with their help, I am in sync with my goals and highly motivated to do better in life. I am a go-getter, a goodhomemaker, and a strongwriter. I have evolved and re-invented myself with their help.
3) Do you think it’s important for women to have male advocates and mentors in order to climb up the corporate ladder?
I think what’s most important is to get the right mentor.
I believe that a mentor-mentee relationship works on the basis of the following:
1) Trust: A mentee can share weaknesses, doubts, and mistakes with the mentor, and the mentor can continue offering objective advice.
2) Focus: Both mentor and mentee should understand what they’re working toward and be able to give and take constructive feedback.
3) Expectations: Mentors and mentees should have clarity that these roles add worth to both their careers.
4) What is the best advice that you can give for finding a mentor or cultivating a relationship with one?
Selecting a mentor is one of the most important professional decisions you will ever make. It can be as clear as crystal or as illusory as a mirage. Though it may seem easy, professional success is an amalgamation of carefully thought-out and well-executed decisions. The role of a mentor in this journey is crucial. Always ask yourself the following questions before you get started:
Is the person interested in working with you and able to devote the time and patience that the relationship will require?
Are you comfortable interacting with the person and confiding in him or her?
Is the person capable of contributing to your intellectual growth and providing useful feedback?
Unrealistic expectations, poor communication, unclear agendas or intolerance to criticism can act as big spoilers. But if you go in with concrete goals, an open mind, and a positive attitude, the rewards will be immeasurable.