You don’t need a mentor!

Encouraging women to find a mentor in order to succeed in their career isn't the wrong advice, but it's not right either.

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As we near the end of the year, and people start to consider what went well for them this year and what they might focus on next year, one thing I’m sure will be mentioned is the need for a mentor.

Over the last few years, finding a mentor has been a consistent theme for women in business. It’s been heralded as the solution to the boy’s club and a necessity for women to succeed and move up the career ladder. I’m certainly not here to suggest that having a mentor is a bad thing, quite the opposite. Having someone on your side to support, challenge and teach you is both wonderful and valuable, however, I think that the way we are going about it right now is all wrong.

You don’t need to go out and find one mentor who will stick by you for the next ten years or more of your career. Instead, I encourage you to consider that you may already be surrounded by many mentors who have, do or will provide you with the right support when you need it.

Over the course of my life, I have met many women who have inspired and pushed me in the right direction, just as any good mentor would. One of my earliest memories of mentorship is when I was 21 and had decided that I was ready to start my own business. This was something I had always wanted (and still want) to do and as I had finished University, I concluded it must be time. It wasn’t, but after setting up a whole business, and sharing it with my family and friends, that was not an easy thing to admit. I spent months building a website, raising finances, purchasing and selling products. It was exhausting and unrewarding, but it wasn’t until I met a woman, whom I don’t even remember the name of now, that I was actually able to recognize my unhappiness. After only a few minutes of conversation, she said to me, “you know you don’t need to do this, right?” I didn’t, until that moment. Immediately, I realised she was right and the burden I had been carrying around for months was released – I quit (with pride) shortly after. To me, this five-minute mentorship was just as valuable as committed conversations weekly or monthly.

Most recently, I met a woman who I can only describe as my “career crush” who helped me so much in one conversation, that I was able to find a new job in an area I have been very interested in for a while but unable to really crack it. In the time it takes to order and drink a cup of tea, she helped me identify the right type of roles and suggested speaking to the company I now (very happily) work for!

I guess what I am saying is not that finding a mentor is a bad thing or something you shouldn’t do, you should! I’m just saying that maybe we could spend a little more time acknowledging and appreciating all the people in our life, both past and present, who may have already supported, pushed and taught us in the moments we needed it most without any formality or the use of the word ‘mentor’. And anyway, in the age of #womensupportingwomen, are we not all mentors?

As it’s Christmas, I’ll finish with a classic:

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Mentors are all around me
And so my career grows!

Happy Mentoring everyone, and for all the incredible women out there who know and have supported me over the years – thank you!
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