Asking for advice when it comes to running your own business just makes good sense. So what’s the best way to go about finding a mentor who can really help you achieve your goals?

By Susan Vitale (Chief Marketing Officer, iCIMS)

Mentors can turn up in surprising places, so keep your eyes open and be open to new experiences. I found the person who became my long-time mentor and friend in college. I was majoring in Business Management at Lehigh University. Then the school removed it as a major so I switched to Marketing, PR, and Communications. It turned out to be a fortuitous turn of events.

Shortly after, I was approached by Adam Feigenbaum, the now-Chief Operating Officer at iCIMS (then our Director, Marketing & Sales) with a job opportunity, and I took it. This is when my studies in business management really began. Through Adam, I learned that management is a skill that gives you life experience, but requires commitment, patience and trial and error. With his guidance and a lot of luck, I was able to grow into the position I hold today as Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS.

Why Choose a Mentor?

I think of my mentor as a role model, a teacher and sometimes even a therapist. Everyone needs a mentor because in business, almost every experience is a new one. It’s great to be able to turn to someone to get out of your own head and see the bigger picture.

When you have the right mentor in place, you have a greater chance of succeeding. A mentor can help you assess your skills and identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. Since I dabble in yoga, I like to think of a mentorship like the relationship between a yoga student and an instructor. While you’re the one on the mat doing all the work, your mentor is like the instructor, leading you through it and encouraging you. Although your mentor might suggest that you take a metaphorical headstand in your career, it’s really up to you to make it happen. Your mentor can help you come up with your career mantra, but it is up to you to stick to it! But you do have to find the right person.

Finding Your Mentor

We all cultivate friendships at work, but not everyone puts the same energy into scouting out a mentor, which is much more valuable. There’s a difference between a friend and a mentor. Although I consider my mentor a great friend, he’s always had the most important qualities that every mentor should have. First of all, your mentor has to be someone you admire, respect and someone whose opinion you trust. I think the great balance my mentor has is being supportive, but honest. We all need a pat on the back every now and then, but more importantly, you need someone who can shoot straight with you and criticize constructively.

The Results

The results and benefits of a good mentorship are innumerable. With Adam as my mentor, I was able to set my career goals and then rely on him as a way to check in on the milestones I set. I remember one instance when I was feeling bogged down with an overwhelming amount of sales requests. After reaching my boiling point, Adam made me see the bigger picture: that all those requests were actually turning into opportunities for me. Sometimes we just react and don’t see the big picture. A mentor can help you step back, get a different perspective and help you stay on the best path for your personal development and your company’s success. You can bounce ideas off of them, vent to them and trust them with your emotions. Most of all, mentors are there to challenge us and remind us to challenge ourselves.

Women 2.0 readers: Have you ever acted as a mentor for someone else? Or have you benefited from a mentor’s support?

headshotAbout the guest blogger: Susan Vitale joined iCIMS in 2005 and works as the organization’s Chief Marketing Officer, directing iCIMS’ business strategy to drive corporate growth. Her responsibilities include developing new business opportunities for iCIMS via new product lines, exploring expansion into new international markets and developing additional revenue streams through channels.

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock.