I’m a mentor junkie. Nearly every major decision I’ve made in my life I’ve come to after consulting with people who’ve been around the block a lot more times than I have. At this point in my career, after raising millions for women’s causes, running a national nonprofit, working at Levo, doing lots of public speaking, and now writing a book, I feel that I’m simply the cumulative investment of a lot of generous people. Part of how I express my gratitude to them is by paying it forward and mentoring others. But with multiple mentorship requests each week and only 24 hours in a day, I’ve had to get savvy at deciding who to say yes to. Here are the top 4 qualities my favorite mentees exhibit that make me feel lucky to be a part of their career journey and that I look for when I’m approached by young professionals.
1. They’re coachable.
Mentors help you achieve clarity through guidance and encouragement. So the best mentees can easily embrace and adapt your advice. They’re able to do so because they’re confident and because they know how to solicit the feedback they need to hear, not just the feedback they want to hear. Coachable mentees have tons of delicious questions because they’re active learners who are comfortable with what they don’t know.
2. They pester me.
Ok, I don’t actually feel like they’re pestering me, but I know it feels that way to them because they often say things like “I’m so sorry to bug you.” Superstar mentees understand that it’s their job to drive the relationship. They’re proactive and diligent about following up. I especially love when they keep me posted about how a situation I was advising them on turned out.
3. They help me.
A lot of young professionals approach me as if they’re a peon and I’m some bigwig who’s doing them a favor by even responding to their email. Nothing could be further from the truth! My mentees contribute to my success, especially as a working mom, in huge ways. They’ve done everything from help me organize events, to research, and babysitting. One of them is a buyer for a major fashion brand and gives me tips on what to wear to all of my public appearances. Good mentees know that elevating women’s careers is a two-way street.
4. They run through the doors I open for them.
They don’t walk…or skip…they RUN. When I present an opportunity, whether it’s an introduction to a person, access to an event, or securing them a job interview, uber mentees knock it out of the ballpark. They show up on time and dressed appropriately, they’re prepared, they ask thoughtful questions, and they send thank you notes. I work my butt off for them because I believe in them. And in return they make ME look good.
One of my mentors and heroes is Marie Wilson. She built the Ms. Foundation, Co-Founded Take Our Daughters to Work Day, and Founded The White House Project. (Watch Marie Wilson’s Office Hours.) Recently I served on the event planning committee for a women’s network we belong to. When she arrived and saw that she was featured prominently as part of an oral history project, she said to me, “Well, isn’t it nice to have people in high places looking out for you.” We both laughed. Contributing to her recognition was the least I could do after everything she’s done for me. Mentorship is a win-win for everyone.
Ask Tiffany anything here—just heed this advice before you ask her to be your mentor!