I once had a conversation with a female colleague about needing a mentor (read: I’ve had several conversations with many female colleagues about needing a mentor). My first question is always the same: Why?
If you can’t convey why you need a mentor, then there is a good chance you won’t fully benefit from one. My follow-up questions usually center around that colleague’s needs, aspirations and past mentors. And if I haven’t lost her in the barrage of questions by then, I’m usually sold on her as a mentee. Thus begins the mentoring prework for WISE Within, the signature mentoring arm of WISE that kicks off each spring.
I have had the privilege of leading WISE mentoring on the local and national level for many years, and what most people don’t realize about WISE Within — and mentoring in general — is that finding the right mentor is nearly as important as finding the right mentee.
Unfortunately in this day and age when there is equality of rights, there is still parity among success. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be recognizing “first” Golden Globe nominations — this year marked the first female African-American director to receive a Golden Globe nomination — or hearing Oscar acceptance speeches that include pleas for equal pay among sexes. Clearly, the sports world is not the only entertainment-based industry that struggles to recognize innovative women.
Anyone will tell you that a successful female executive deserves to be admired. It takes a certain set of characteristics to break through the gender barrier and achieve C-level status (and there isn’t one woman in WISE or any other female-centric professional organization that isn’t burning to find out what the perfect top 10 list is).
However, ask one of those successful female executives a piece of advice she would give her younger self, and many will say something along the lines of, “Do the extra work, and it will pay off tenfold.” It’s hard to believe we still have to be told about being extraordinary and going the extra mile, but that’s likely because the first step is always the hardest: having the right attitude.
The right attitude involves setting expectations for yourself and others without ever giving up in the face of adversity. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it. The approach and intent behind our actions are the most revealing of our character and potential for success, which is why the right attitude is so important and can be the most challenging attribute to find in a strong mentee. This is what the WISE Within chapter mentoring committees are looking for as the application process comes to a close and the matching process begins.
Finding a successful match is about personality, commitment, drive and the right attitude in both the mentor and mentee. When a committee attempts to match a mentor and mentee, it relies on an unofficial profile of each candidate that is revealed through the 50 questions presented in the application. It’s one part matchmaker, one part hiring manager.
The mentee candidates who provide honest and thorough responses are typically the ones who, once accepted, enter the program with an open mind and enough dedication to graduate from the program after six months, having achieved results and a new professional friend in their mentor. While the application is just the tip of the iceberg, it’s crucial in determining the strength of a mentee in WISE Within, and it all starts with the right attitude.