Friends and Mentors by Sandra Long


I will always remember Denise who asked me to be her mentor several years ago. I was flattered. She wanted advice about her career and she asked me “Will you be my mentor?” After that question, we met on a regular basis and discussed her career and brainstormed some ideas. Denise was a “company friend” that I admired. I was lucky to have so many of these type of relationships during my corporate tenure.

Most of these relationships were not officially labeled “mentor” but make no mistake. My “company friends” were amazing. We coached each other on everything imaginable. Career. Situations with a boss. Office politics or protocol. Family matters. Motherhood. Promotions. Social Media. You name it! I am so lucky to have these amazing “personal advisers” and I try to give and help and support them whenever possible.

We all need these type of relationships and they don’t need to be formal. The way to begin them is extremely simple. Ask for advice. Ask for help. People love to help. Be helpful in return. You will find people everywhere that will respond and relate. You want to know people that can join you in a two way relationship where you are helping each other. These kind of relationships develop into very close and supportive friendships. You have to start the ball rolling by showing a small dose of vulnerability; otherwise you may appear unapproachable. So, ask for advice!

My friend Lisa is a great example of someone who successfully reaches out to people for collaboration or connection. She is not afraid to ask for advice or assistance. Lisa was a customer many years ago. We had a strictly professional relationship. We lost touch over time. In the fall of 2012, Lisa reached out to me to see if I was interested in speaking at a social media event. I was and I did. Since that time, we have reinvented our relationship to mentoring and supporting each other. Lisa encouraged me to start blogging and I will always appreciate her for that advice. We now advise each other on career, relationships, work, speaking, blogging and being a mom. Lisa is now on my “do anything for” list of friends.

Try to develop mentoring relationships at your school or place of employment. Ask your professor or career counselor for their advice about your internship search. Ask your boss for advice on how you can improve or learn something new. While you are doing the asking, also ask how can you help them? Be thankful and find ways to provide assistance to your friend. Your age or time at a company does not matter. There are many ways you can be helpful and share with others. Very simple things like your knowledge of social media or your experience as a writer can provide fuel for unique insights that will be valued by your coworker.

It’s in your power to create a valuable new two way mentoring relationship. I personally don’t think you need to directly or formally ask someone to be your mentor or your friend. Instead, just start with real action: ask for advice and show your support. Don’t just do this once. Maintain the positive connection by reporting back on your progress or offering some assistance. Develop many of these relationships and enjoy the ultimate thrill which is introducing these people to each other.

Can you tell me about your friends who are also mentors? I am looking forward to hearing from you!