Friday, May 3, 2013

The value of a mentor

I have a mentor. For me, I like having someone who knows both the fashion industry and me well. My mentor is also well-connected, well-respected and wise. She is more senior than me and has been in the industry much longer. When I am on a job search, I connect with her to talk through my opportunities. While I may know what job I like, I may not be clear on which would be the best career move. When I am unhappy about something that happened in my job, she can talk me off the proverbial ledge. I trust her judgment. She is a sounding board for my challenges and a terrific source of support.

I have also mentored and been asked to mentor quite a few people in my career. What I have found is a wide range of reasons people seek a mentor and a wide range of reasons people want to be mentors. Discussing the terms and finding the right fit is something you may want to consider before selecting a mentor. I didn’t understand the importance of this until very recently.

One girl asked if I would be her mentor because she felt that she would never advance her position unless she had a more senior woman in the same company championing on her behalf. For the record, I do not agree with that notion and see it as a limiting belief. (I will cover and explain limiting beliefs in a later post.) My style of mentoring involves helping the mentee gather the skills and information s/he needs to get to the next level or make a positive decision. I would not consider promoting or suggesting to promote my mentee over someone who would be better for the job. I will champion anyone who is smart, full of potential or great at what they do. I don’t care if you are my mentee, a man, woman, Caucasian, African American, Asian, tall, short, young or old. Needless to say, I did tell her this and our mentor/ mentee relationship did not work out.   

So before you embark on your journey to find a mentor, consider what you want. What would make a great mentor for you? What are the interactions you would like to have with your mentor? How would you like to interact with your mentor? Once you are clear on what you want, who would be a good match? Who do you respect that can help guide you through your career? How does that person’s value system match your value system?

Having a mentor is not for everyone, but the wrong mentor is not for anyone.

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree what Kate was mentioned in her post. I am lucky enough to have a mentor throughout my career in fashion. This person, of course, is Kate. I was interning in Kate's department at this fashion corporation. Kate and her team were very welcoming. They invited me to all business meetings and they involved me in all these projects; they even invited me to happy hours and dinner. I must say I was very nervous. I didn't know how I should act because I was just an intern. Unlike other internships that my classmates were doing, I learnt a lot on the business and industry as a whole. Sometimes, I even contributed some ideas/opinions to the team. After the internship was over, Kate and I still kept in touch.

    I graduated in the middle of the economic crisis. It was hard for anyone to find a job. It was even harder for me because I was an international student. No company was willing to hire an international student and to sponsor working visa. I ended up getting a job in fashion, but it wasn't what I was passionate in. I took the job because it gave me a chance to live in NYC. However, I wasn't happy about my life and my career. At that time, Kate was very encouraging. Even though she was extremely busy with her job, she would talk to me and give me advice. She edited my resume, guided me to the right sources; she even used some of her personal relationship and recommended me for jobs. Because of her support, I am working at a company that I love and a career that I am very passionate about. I will always treasure what she has done for me.

    I'm very thankful and lucky to have Kate as my mentor and even a friend. It was hard for me to believe that an upper management executive of a well known corporation would care about my career and life after only knowing me for 3 months. I truly admire Kate's work ethnic: from the way she works, the way she thinks, to the way she manages her team. I have learnt so much from her. But the most important thing that she has taught me was being genuine is an important trait to survive and succeed in fashion and even life.

    Thank you, Kate.