The 4 Types of Mentors You Should Have


In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg makes a counterintuitive point about mentors. Shift your thinking from “If I get a mentor, I’ll excel” to “If I excel, I will get a mentor.”  It’s an important distinction to make when career building and it’s a tip that is as effective in Nigeria as it is in Ghana, Kenya and the rest of the world.

We know how important mentors are. They help answer tough questions about our career paths and get perspective on the industries we work in. As women, they help us navigate any gender biases that exist.

But do you know the various types of mentors you should have?

The Junior Mentors

The junior mentor is usually two or three job levels ahead of you. This is a savvy person who’s succeeding at their career and has a clear understanding of how the organization works. This person can literally hand-hold you as you navigate the tricky world of careers, and getting  a leg up. This person is not too senior that they’re too busy to talk to you. While you should be honest with all your mentors, this person is the one you’re least likely to hide anything from. This is the one you can whine to without feeling a need to impress. You can be candid about your goals and dreams, knowing that they won’t judge you or your commitment (or lack of) to the company. The payback? Show them their advice matters to you. And know that in your achievements, big or small, you make them proud too.

The Senior Mentors

This person could double as a sponsor. This is probably your official mentor, the one who can open doors for you by way of personal referral or invites to meetings you normally wouldn’t attend. This mentor is great for big-picture planning of your career. Sometimes, this mentor might be so senior and so intimidating that you’d be uncomfortable sharing some of your work issues with them. Still, a good way to get the benefit of their experience is to ask, “How would you handle this problem?”

The Personal Life Mentors

This mentor has their work-life balance down to an art. While this person might not provide career-building advice, she provides valuable lessons on finding happiness in your everyday life, being authentic and living a full life. Equally as important, if you ask us.

The Outlier Mentors

The one who says you should always keep your CV current/ quit your job/ switch companies/ become an entrepreneur/ follow your dreams. We all need that one person who provides the tension in our lives, the draw between corporate culture at our current companies and life elsewhere. They provide much-needed perspective and show us just how many options we have.

In our next post, we’ll explore how you go about getting these mentors. Don’t miss a beat!

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