The world of professional networking is changing – and while social media networking is the norm, it can still feel incredibly difficult to make real connections and find a mentor who can help guide your career path.
Glamour recently interviewed 10 notable CEOs and founders, such as Shark Tank judge Barbara Corcoran, Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck, ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, and Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney. Each of these powerful women has achieved major success in their respective fields, and each one has the same career advice: Find the right mentor. They also have four new rules for networking and making meaningful professional connections.
While there’s never going to be one Fairy Godmother who completely transforms your career, you can absolutely encounter people who will change your path and be very helpful. Many of the women in the Glamour piece say that the best advice they’ve received has come from specific mentors who they approached about just one topic. Katie Sturino, founder of The 12ish Style and Megababe, says she had a helpful mentor who was not particularly skilled at managing her time at work. “I realized she didn’t have the best time-management skills,” she explains. “I’m still glad for what she taught me, but when it came time to balance my work and personal lives, I went to someone else.”
Make it a two-way relationship
In addition to rethinking the “one-stop adviser” structure, a meaningful mentorship also means considering what you bring to the table. After all, if you’re digitally savvy, you can use that to your advantage to help others in their own career paths. “Find ways that you can help the person who’s advising you,” Barbara Corcoran recommends. “If they’re going to give you free advice, offer to help them with something you know you’re good at. Whether it’s social media, or whatever it may be, it will go a long way.”
Do your homework beforehand
Social media allows us to learn a lot about a person before we meet them, for better or worse. According to ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, we can (and should) use this information to our advantage. When Kadakia first approached her now co-founder, who was then at Zocdoc, she came prepared with questions about the health-related tech business. “I came prepared with specific questions on the challenges I was tackling with scaling the company,” she recalls. “He provided great guidance on how to combat early growing pains.”
Make it informal
The idea of mentorship can feel old-school, but making a connection shouldn’t have to feel like an official, ceremonial process. “When I was CFO of Citi, I was part of a formal mentoring program,” Sallie Krawcheck remembers. “My mentee was a perfectly nice young woman, and we met for a monthly breakfast. She’d ask questions, and then we’d spend the rest of the time staring at each other in awkward silence or small talk.” In retrospect, Krawcheck says that although formal chit-chat can foster connection, there are other ways to connect that may feel more natural. When do you find someone whose advice you appreciate, and who you want to get to know better, make a point of interacting with them in a way that feels authentic to you – if a casual coffee run feels more you than a buttoned-up monthly breakfast, do that instead!
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