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CLawrence-headshotI’m often surprised when young ambitious women ask me how to find a mentor.  It’s something that I think most professional women would not find challenging. Yet, this question persists.

This was validated by my recent interview with Carolyn Lawrence, President and CEO of Women of Influence, Inc.

I was at an event recently for Young Women of Influence, and was really struck by something that happened.  We had just heard an engaging presentation on personal branding and how to get ahead in business.  The room was packed with acutely ambitious and well-heeled women poised in their career and ready for take-off.  The speaker had just opened up the floor for questions, when a young woman raised her hand and asked the ubiquitous question: “How do you find a mentor?”  I looked around, completely surprised, and thinking to myself, are we still having this conversation?

Just as I’m thinking this through, I heard another woman, this time right behind me, whisper to her friend ‘oh, that’s a good question!’

I guess that’s my answer!  We’re still talking about this and it’s important.  Maybe we need to get better at answering it.”

Women of Influence published their annual list of the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada this past November. At a gathering to celebrate these successful women, Carolyn asked them how they found their mentors and what advice they had for young women seeking mentors.

Here are the Top 9 ways to find a mentor from the most influential women in Canada along with comments from Carolyn Lawrence.

1. Be coachable and be passionate. Claudia Hepburn, Executive Director, The Next 36

How do you show people that you’re coachable? If you’re working in the same organization as these people, or on a committee – which is something I really recommend, show that you have promise, and you’re willing to hear good feedback and change course, and do better. So that’s what it means to, “be coachable and be passionate.” Be committed to whatever it is that you’re working on. Someone who’s passive and running for the door at 5pm is not going to find a connection with a mentor.

2. Establish trust early on. Kimberley Mason, Regional President, Atlantic Provinces, RBC Royal Bank

I have found that, establishing trust early on is important. If you’re in a corporate environment, or have a client or vendor relationship, really make sure that, if loyalty is tested – or that someone has shared something with you that can hurt or help someone else – that you really make sure you’re doing the right thing, and handling those early opportunities in your corporation with importance. Really think through the decisions that you make and who you’re aligning with.

If, however, you’re not surrounded in your corporation with those opportunities or women you want – I have found it really helpful to figure out,  “Where do these people go in the evenings? or on their weekends – that I can either, join the club, or join a group, or join a sport? Something that puts me in the limelight with these people, to develop a trusting relationship that actually has nothing to do with work and what we’re doing in our job, but allows us to bond.

I have found this to be so helpful in my own career. I’ve signed up for triathlon training groups, or charity fundraisers – anything that puts me into a different set of professional people. And then, we do something together – you establish trust by that shared common goal. And then, all of a sudden, you’re willing to do anything for these people – and them for you. So, it can be a mentor-mentee relationship. Doesn’t matter if they’re more senior or more junior professionally; you can help each other. And that’s the point: to establish trust as a person, and bond – and that can take you anywhere.

3. Have many mentoring moments during critical periods in your career. Jane Allen, Chief Diversity Officer, Partner, Global Renewable Energy Leader, Deloitte

This is advice that I really like, because it’s a little more specific, and it also makes you think.  You don’t have to hang your hat on just one critical mentor. A mentor could be someone you have coffee with once. And that’s okay – and they help you through one thing that you’re curious about. And maybe something else occurs to you 5 years down the road, and you want to call them out for coffee again. Or maybe you have multiple people that you mean throughout your life that have mentored you in different ways. I think what’s critical is that you don’t need one magical person or magic bullet. It can be many mentoring moments, as opposed to a person. And think about it in the evolution of your career.

4. Surround yourself with good people.Chris Power, Christine Power, President and CEO, Capital District Health Authority

Along with mentors, seek out people who are willing to help you get closer to finding out what your strengths and talents are. Look for role models early in your career. Who are the successful women in your organization? How do they communicate, behave, manage and inspire others? What do they do that helps them to position themselves for success?

Seek out a coach who can help you dive deeper into how to get to that next level in the career ladder, and look for champions. Champions can do more for you that you can ever do on your own. I’m always asking other female CEOs, ‘How do they build relationships? How do they big, new clients or referrals or promotions?’ And it’s often because they’ve had a champion who can talk about them better than they can talk about themselves. Women are so modest; we tend to not really share and talk about how great we are, how talented we are. So oftentimes, this is the champion’s role – our cheerleader – and for women, especially, this is something you really need in your back pocket.

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To read in depth and personal profiles of the Top 25 Women of Influence, click here.