The 4 Things All My Mentor / Mentee Relationships Have in Common

Last week, I attended The Lady Project’s annual BYOM (Bring Your Own Mentor) Bash with one of my mentors –who also happens to be my current boss! –Joanne. I have wanted to attend this event for two years now, and I’m SO glad I finally did. Never underestimate the power of quality time with your mentor - especially when fellow Lady Project members and free pizza from Providence Flatbread are involved (okay, and maybe a glass or two of wine)! 

The event got me thinking about the many tremendous mentors I have had in my life – and the many tremendous mentees! (I like to call them my “grasshoppers.”) Each has been invaluable, not only to my career path, but also to my journey through life. And though I have taken something unique from each of my mentor / mentee relationships, I believe that they all have the following in common: 

1. Incredible career sounding boards

We all need sounding boards from time to time. (I’m an extrovert - I talk to think – so I definitely need sounding boards!) Having a mentor to bounce ideas off of, discuss challenges, trade leadership strategies, and practice negotiation techniques with, or seek advice from in regards to big career decisions (and, sometimes, life decisions) can make all the difference. And I can’t overstate the benefits of getting out of your own head. I have had moments in a conversation with a mentor where something I had previously been stuck on suddenly became crystal clear. 

2. My best constructive critics

In my experience, the most beneficial mentor / mentee relationships are the ones where your mentor is not afraid to provide you with constructive criticism. If it wasn’t for the mentors in my life who have consistently reminded me to self-care (normally it goes something like this: ‘Erica, stop. Just stop. Put the work DOWN. Seriously. Take a five-minute walk for everyone’s sake.”) I certainly would not be where I am today. And the moments where my mentors have pointed out my assumptions and biases, provided me with a fresh perspective, or advised me to sit on something, reconsider a strategy, or make a course correction have led to some of the best decisions of my career. 

3. Amazing “blue sky” conversations

This is related to being a sounding board, but more philosophical. I love nothing more than to have BIG IDEA conversations with my mentors. About my chosen field. About what I would do if [insert dream job here]. About who I’d like to be having lunch with 10 years from now. About what success, and leadership, and family, and balance all mean to me. These “blue sky” conversations (I believe this is what Disney Imagineers call their exploration phase when anything is possible!) always leave me feeling energized, centered, and purposeful. They light a fire in me and keep me connected to myself – the Erica who knows exactly who she is, what she wants out of life, and more about how to get there than she thinks. 

4. Great friends

One of the lines from The Lady Project manifesto is “mentorship is a two way street.” It’s one of my favorites. I have learned as much from being a mentor as I have from my own mentors, and I count many mentors and mentees among my dearest friends. There is a certain vulnerability, I think, in a quality mentor / mentee relationship – a willingness to open up and get honest about who you are, how you think, and what matters to you. It’s a fertile ground for long-lasting friendships. And often, these friendships will expand your own personal network. For example, I’ve had mentors introduce me to future mentors and mentees (and vice versa). It’s a positive feedback loop! 

So, to all of the amazing humans who have mentored me and whom I have mentored – thank you! You really have made all the difference. And, to those reading this post, take five minutes today to tell a mentor or mentee how much you appreciate them – or begin cultivating a new mentor / mentee relationship! You won’t regret it. 

Erica Busillo Adams is an experienced fundraising professional and current staff member at Save The Bay – Narragansett Bay. She is extremely passionate about the non-profit sector, and is a proud member of the PVD Lady Project, Providence HYP, and the Rhode Island Yacht Club. When she’s not blogging, you can find Erica sampling one of RI’s many great restaurants, visiting a museum, or hopping a plane to her next travel destination. Erica studied Dance, Communications, and Comparative Religion at Northwestern U, and resides in Providence, RI with her husband, two stepdaughters, 90-pound chocolate lab, and tabby cat, Rosie.