Of Mentors and Mantras

The keys to a great career guide.
By Susan Vitale
As you make your way through your career, there are many qualities that will help you on the road to success: a great attitude, ambition, and tenacity, just to name a few. But one of the most valuable things you can find is the right mentor.

Keep your eyes and mind open and be ready when that person comes along. I found my longtime mentor while
in college at Lehigh University. I had just had to switch my major from business management to marketing, PR, and communications because the school had dropped what I was studying. It turned out to be a lucky break for me. Shortly after, I was approached by Adam Feigenbaum, the now-chief operating officer at iCIMS (then our director of marketing and sales), with a job opportunity, and I took it. With his guidance, I was able to grow into the position I hold today as chief marketing officer at iCIMS. I think of my mentor as a role model, a teacher, and sometimes even a therapist. The right mentor helps keep you true to yourself, see the bigger picture, and avoid professional pitfalls that steer your career down the wrong path.

We all look for friendships at work, but not everyone puts that same energy into scouting out a mentor, which is
so much more valuable. Don’t give in to the pressure of having a best friend at work. Although it is nice to have someone to vent to, it can also create unwanted competition, comparison, and even some hostility. My advice to young women starting out their careers is, rather than focusing on finding someone to pal around with, direct your focus on finding a great mentor. Choose someone that you respect and trust. Although it’s nice to hear friends sing your praises, your mentor’s feedback will be more useful. I think the greatest quality 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 constructively criticize. Also, the right mentor should challenge you and motivate you to be your best. That’s the difference between a friendly co-worker and a mentor.

When you have the right mentor in place, you have a greater chance of succeeding. One of the greatest, most valuable benefits of a mentor can be summed up in one word: experience. They have traveled down this road before, and you can benefit from their wisdom. They can help you decide when it is time to take the next step in your career and help you execute a strategy to do so. A mentor can help you assess your skills and identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. All of this can result in bringing out the best in you and maximizing the results of your travels on the road to success. A great example I like to use to illustrate what I think is the perfect mentor relationship comes from my love of yoga. I like to think of a mentorship like the relationship between a yoga student and an instructor. You’re the one on the mat doing all the work, and your mentor is like your instructor, guiding you through it and encouraging you along the way. 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!

The benefits of a good mentorship are immeasurable. With Adam as my mentor, I have been able to set my career goals and then rely on him for assistance along the way. A great example of this happened early in my career. I was feeling really overwhelmed due to a deluge of sales requests. I was frustrated with my job and reaching my boiling point. I went to Adam, and he helped me see the bigger picture; that all those requests were actually turning into opportunities for me. Sometimes we just react and don’t take a moment to look to the horizon. A mentor can help you step back, get a different perspective, and stay on the best path for your personal development. Most of all, our mentors are there to challenge us and remind us to challenge ourselves.

Susan Vitale is the chief marketing officer of iCIMS.

Tags: Consultants & Advisors, HRO Today Global, Professional Contribution

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