Tuesday Talk with Sara Owens

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Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

It takes a village. This is true whether you are just starting out in your career or you are a seasoned professional or somewhere in between. As humans we are hardwired for connection. And it is the human connection that makes work (and life) better. Collaboration on projects. A supportive manager. The colleague to give you a high-five or a listening ear. These connections not only makes the work we do more successful, it makes work a lot more enjoyable.

I have been fortunate to have many mentors throughout my career. First it was my manager at GE, in the very early days of my career. He cared more about supporting the growth and development of his team than he did results. I learned that from him and have carried it with me. Later, when I’d been working for about 10 years, I was at Microsoft and took advantage of a formal mentorship program. I worked with my mentor for a year, meeting once a month. She guided me through one of the toughest times for female professionals – how to position myself for promotion while also wanting to have a child and navigating preparation for maternity leave.

Since then I have had mentors in many informal ways. And not only in my professional life. I have found mentors in parenting and in navigating school and services for my daughter with a disability. We are not meant to do life alone. We don’t know everything. In fact, the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know! We can learn on our own by reading and researching, but we learn a lot more by connecting with others.

So what makes a good mentor? It is important to have trust and feel an authentic connection. A good mentor is a good listener. A good mentor is empathetic. A good mentor coaches you through things rather than giving you instructions or trying to solve your issue for you. A good mentor is vulnerable, and is able to share their own experiences and relate to how you’re feeling.

We need more mentors in life. As we all climb toward our goals, we must extend a hand down to bring others along. Are you mentoring someone now? If not, look around. I guarantee you’ll see someone you will be the perfect mentor for. And you will get as much out of it as your mentee. sfBIG in partnership with BAARC and AMA offers a mentorship program. If you want to become a mentor, or want to find a mentor, please let us know at [email protected].

One of the greatest mentors I’ve ever been lucky enough to know is our own John Durham. Bringing people together was his superpower. I leave you with his words about kindness. Have a great week.

Sara’s Favorite Durhamism

2528 – Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. If someone were to pay you ten cents for every kind word you said about people and collect five cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor? Stay kind. It makes you beautiful.