CAMP 2014: Mentors are out there, but you have to look for them

Story by 2014 Fellow Georgia Dawkins

Shh! Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but the big secret to mentoring is asking for what you need. I know this for a fact. For the last 10 years, I have recruited mentors from various backgrounds, genders and ethnicities to guide me through life. This year, JAWS made that process even easier. Not only was I drawn to like-minded JAWdesses like a mosquito to water, but I was paired with a phenomenal female journalist. I was paired with Stacy-Marie Ishmael. She instantly made meeting me at CAMP a priority, and her commitment didn’t end at after one breakfast at the La Quinta Resort. Between BuzzFeed and the Financial Times, her time is limited, but I’m now on her schedule. I look at our newfound union and think, “Now, that’s how you do it.”

Mary Stutts, vice president of external affairs for Comcast, told CAMP attendees that many women don’t have mentors because they fail to ask. “Mentoring is conducive to developing future leaders,” says the mother of three.

Here are some tips that will help you guide you through mentorship, leadership and learning:

  1. There are mentors and there are sponsors: The sponsors pick you; you need to approach a mentor. You will have different mentors for the various stages in your career.
  2. Leaders in your organization are talking about you. They are looking for the next tier of leaders. Be present. Strutts says you have to come in thinking: “I am the solution to your problem. I am going to add value to your organization.”
  3. To build confidence, you have to show up. Take on the difficult tasks that no one else wants to do. Those are the opportunities that will get you noticed. “If you have been in the same role for five years or more, you need to do something that shows you’re a risk taker,” she said.
  4. Understand you may have to leave to get the job you want.
  5. You will have different mentors for the various stages in your career.
  6. Behave like it’s your company. Put together a vision on how you would run your company. When the mantle of power is thrown to you, you will know what to do.

Stutts is the author of “The Missing Mentor: Women Advising Women on Power, Progress and Priorities.”