How a Mentor Can Help You Step Up That Career Ladder

Fab Giovanetti

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Who are your mentors?

Some people may argue mentors are around us at all times — which is something I can get behind — but I do believe that finding some specific mentors is such an essential path of anyone’s journey.

No matter where you find them, let your mentors be the ones that can push you to higher heights.

Someone who still does that, despite no longer being with us, is my grandpa. Since I was very young, he was the one who transmitted his passions to me and my brother.

My grandpa was everything I aspired to be: talented, creative, active, charming. What I was not necessarily as fond of was how he would constantly take my gullibility to higher heights, by testing how many of his bizarre stories and lies I would believe. Unsurprisingly, most of them.

He taught me a lot of things though, without even trying.

What I loved about my grandpa was his innate ability to make everyone feel special — whether it was by stealing a smile off them, or complimenting them.

He was the flirtiest man I have eve r met, and his charm definitely helped him with that. I remember him telling young women — and I am talking 20 to 30 years younger than him — he was 90.

“Nonno, but you are only 75!”
“Well, you won’t get compliments off ladies if you say you are 75, will you?”

I learned not to take myself too seriously — that, at the end of the day, people will love you and relate to you because of who you are. I also embraced the “no filters” attitude and the hyper-ness, which sometimes does frustrates people.

My grandad believed that being a better person for others would make you happier. He also believed that water made you rusty — as I said, nobody is perfect.

Another thing I learned from grandpa was to be passionate.

My grandad was a keen tennis player, a soccer coach, a multi-instrumentalist, a painter. I remember us dancing around the vinyl player like maniacs listening to Frank Sinatra and Liza Minelli.

“Giorgio, you are going to hurt yourself!” my grandma would shout covering her face, whilst we engaged in fine twist moves. As someone who was growing up feeling the urge to impress and be loved, I looked up to grandpa and wanted him to be proud of me.

The excitement of showing him I learned to play “Stand by Me” all by myself was immense. He was my hero, after all.

Who are your mentors anyway?

Whether it is a teacher, a coach, or simply someone who is willing to help you develop your vision and grow your influence, mentors are the ones that will support you with your learning process.

Almost no one develops their talents by themselves — teachers and coaches can support us with the motivation required to practice our skills.

The beauty of the world today is that teachers come in different ways, shapes, and forms.

They can be someone we follow, learn from and read about passively, without necessarily having met them. It can be someone who is willing to show you how to grow your skills or your tutor. It can be someone you are related to, just like my grandad.

Some use a defined system or process, some are certified, and others have a more organic approach.

If you are going down a more formal coaching route, always interview at least three coaches before making a decision.

Keep in mind that just because someone claims to be a coach doesn’t mean the fit is right for you. Always speak to a coaching candidate’s references.

Mentorships can take many forms, such as a one-to-one relationship or a mentoring circle within an organisation. The best mentor relationships are filled with two-way learning and reciprocation.

How do you go about finding a mentor?

The best thing is nine times out of ten, to ask people out for a coffee.

If you are looking for a coach or a mentoring figure that can provide you with accountability, I recommend going to friends and peers in the community and ask for recommendations.

This is how I started mentoring bloggers and influencers again. People kept coming to me asking me for someone who could mentor them, and at some point, I had to throw in the towel and accept the Universe wanted me to be that figure for them.

Another way to find mentors is to look at your current teachers and tutors and ask them for some personal feedback or advice.

I still remember fondly my literature teacher. She was very strict, and most of the class was not necessarily a big fan of hers. However, dork alert, I really loved literature and her way of teaching it to us. One day I came to her telling her I wanted to be a writer.

One thing leads to another, and I ended up handing her a manuscript for one of my short stories, probably not expecting a lot out of it.

A few days back she came back with the pieces of paper scribbled over and highlighted.

This was the beginning of a long correspondence. It makes me actually quite emotional to think back at this — she truly believed in me. She believed in my passion, and my enthusiasm, and prompted me to write more, branch out, and not give up.

This is what a mentor should be. There to celebrate your successes and push you to be inherently better.

It was relatively easy for me to ask my teacher for help — however, it works very similarly when working with strangers. Approaching someone is as easy as sending an email — the real pickle is getting their attention.

Successful people get hundreds of requests for their time every day, and unfortunately, they ignore most of them — especially from people they don’t know.

The best way to build trust with a potential mentor is to focus on adding value to them without expecting anything in return. Always connections before you build trust with them.

Etiquette for working with your mentor

When asking a person to become your mentor, you want to be specific.

Try something like, “I can see you’re a great team leader and I’m managing a team for the first time. Would you be able to work with me over the next year to become a great team leader?”

Finding a great mentor starts by putting yourself in the right state of mind.

Don’t talk yourself out of trying to find one by assuming successful people won’t have time for you. The truth is, they actually love mentoring ambitious people like you. You just have to show them you’re worth the investment.

Create a structure

Most mentors may facilitate a routine, however, we are all busy — so a proactive approach may go a long way.

Make meetings top priority and keep them informal. At the early stages of a mentorship, you may want to meet more frequently, such as every other week, to build the connection. Then resume a once a month meeting schedule.

Schedule regular meetings and try to vary the places and modes of communication. For instance, you can meet for breakfast, attend a lecture or go to an industry event together.

Be vocal about your results

As a mentor myself, there is nothing better for me than hearing the results of my students and members.

Once you take action on your mentor's advice, make sure you let them know that they’ve contributed to your life in some way.

Leave them a Facebook comment, mention them in a tweet or send a thank-you note or email — or write an article about your learnings!

Instead of just telling them you love their book, tell them what you loved the most about it, how you used it and what results you got from it.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.”–Dan Rather

My grandpa taught me to be creative. Question things. Pass along knowledge. Tell stories that need to be told. Be passionate. Love music. Be kind and make people feel good.

Every time I go down to see hello to him I sit on his tombstone and I tell him about all the crazy things that have changed.

In those moments I can see myself and my Nonno picking up berries, up in the mountains. “See this berry,” he said, holding the tiniest strawberry “it was there, in those bushes, hidden. Always look out for the small things, and hold onto them”.

These lessons are truly the ones you never forget.

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