Smart Latinas Find Good Mentors

I’m constantly on the lookout for new mentors.

In a perfect world, I would have one mentor that I can count on for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the reality is that mentors - like friends - come and go. Sometimes it’s not the best match, and sometimes circumstances (like moving away) cause the relationship to dwindle and disappear.

But there are plenty of mentors out there, sometimes in the oddest of places. Your best mentor may not look like you, act like you, or even be in the same business as you. But his or her perspective on the world may be just what you need when you’re moving in a new direction, facing a tough challenge, or preparing for just another day in the neighborhood.

There’s no rule that says you have to stick with one mentor - at any given time I might have 3-4, give or take a few, because each person brings something different to the table. Need help with emotional stuff? Ask Mentor #1. Need assistance with business-related issues? Ask Mentor #2. Mentors #3 and #4 are great for Zen perspectives and sanity checks. Mentors #1-4 all care about me fundamentally, but none of them are available to me 24/7. (They are, after all, people, too!)

Mentors also don’t have to be older than you. One of my most valuable mentors is still in college - she lets me live vicariously through her as she tells me stories of adventures, parties, and even her classes. She also reminds me to “chill out,” even if she doesn’t say it in so many words. Most importantly, though, she tells me when I’m forgetting to ask myself the fundamental question: am I happy?

How do you know when you’ve found a good mentor? First, follow your gut. If you see the person speak, and you think to yourself, “Gosh, I would really love to pick his brain,” then go get his contact information! Ask him out for coffee. If he doesn’t respond to your inquiry, move on.

If you do get to the coffee stage, ask lots of questions. But also pay attention: Does he (or she!) ask you questions as well? Does the person seem interested in YOU as more than just someone he or she is meeting for coffee? Then, most importantly, if you follow up with him or her afterwards, does he or she respond? If all of these questions result in a “Yes!” then consider yourself in the company of a mentor. (Determining whether the mentor is “good” or not is up to you - does he or she legitimately help you succeed? You might not be able to tell until the second or third meeting.)

Like all good relationships, remember that it’s not the end of the world if the one with your mentor ends. Just thank them for their time, and keep moving forward. Another mentor is bound to end up in front of you soon enough!

Finally, unlike other relationships you may be used to, the relationship between you and your mentor is up to you. You need to ask for every meeting, you need to follow up, you need to determine if it’s worth your time. (If you DO find a mentor who takes charge, awesome. But don’t expect that to happen all the time!)

So, what do you think, Smart Latinas? How many mentors do you currently have? What are your tricks to finding good ones?