Take My Hand: The Importance Of A Mentor And How To Find One

Last month we celebrated Mothers Day and at We are Auburn HQ we talked about the importance of that mother/daughter bond and the lessons we learn from that hand that first held ours. That mentoring role doesn’t have to be limited by family ties.

A helping hand from someone more experienced can often be the impetus that gives us the confidence to take that next step along our journey. Sometimes we may not even be aware of the effect encouragement can have on us - I was lucky enough to have an inspirational English teacher who stirred a love of literature that has become a lifelong passion - her time, patience and praise I took for granted but I am now forever grateful.

I am sure many of you can name a mentor who has helped you along the way, someone without asking who has offered support, but how many of us have the confidence to seek out that special mentor, who with their insight and wisdom would be invaluable to us as we navigate the pitfalls of our various journeys? For some reason we feel that “it is rude to ask”, “they are too busy to have time for me’, “I am not important”, “I don’t even know them so why would they help me”.

Despite being in different lines of work, Maya Angelou was Oprah’s mentor and close friend.

Despite being in different lines of work, Maya Angelou was Oprah’s mentor and close friend.

We make these excuses out of fear but in reality 9 times out of 10 if asked most potential mentors would be delighted to help. There is nothing more flattering and rewarding than sharing your experiences and knowledge with someone who is keen to listen and can put this to good use.

Take a little time to think through whatever journey or project you are embarking on now or in the future and ask yourself - “can I use a little help with this?” This could be as simple as a recipe enjoyed at a friends house for an up-coming dinner party, holiday planning, or more in-depth advice on career development but as my old granny used to say “if you don’t ask you don’t get” so screw up your courage and the next time you are in the company of someone who has a little bit of knowledge that you could benefit from go ahead and ask them.

Christian Dior mentored Yves Saint-Laurent

Christian Dior mentored Yves Saint-Laurent

On the flip side we should always be aware of those less confident than ourselves who might be grateful of a little support. I moved around the UK a number of times when my children were small and the first few days in new playgrounds I used to stand alone and anxious - luckily other mothers would approach and offer that hand of friendship - a lifeline for me and often these would be mothers who had previously been newcomers and knew how it felt to be the ‘new girl’ in town.

Now I always look out for that ‘new girl’ wherever I am and offer my hand of friendship and a warm smile - a little gesture that can make a massive difference. In the work environment that kind word, well-timed email, understanding when things go wrong, helping with solutions, offering praise and showing belief can be life changing. Women who support their female colleagues and friends at home and in the workplace make a more powerful environment that benefits everyone and enables us all to flourish and grow.

But how do you find the right mentor and ask for help? The right mentor should be someone who can give you specific honest feedback about particular work areas, help you refine a skill, or get out of your comfort zone. Here are six tips to help you find the perfect mentor.

1. Identify a professional gap.

2. Scan your existing network.

3. Think outside your current company.

4. Ask for action, not for a role.

5. Accept a decline gracefully.

6. Always follow up promptly.

We all suffer from the age old fear that we are ‘just not good enough’ but if we are prepared to clasp that out-stretched helping hand or ask for someone to pull us up - then we just might find the confidence to fly.