This post is an excerpt from Jane Miller’s book: Sleep Your Way to the Top (And Other Myths About Business Success). Buy the full book here, and get 20 percent off with the code “unreasonable.”

As you build your network, identify people who can become trusted advisors to you. People who will give you honest feedback and help guide you through situations that may be difficult to discuss with a boss (because you don’t want him to know), your parents (because they couldn’t possibly understand), or your best friend (you have more important things to talk about). Having this behind-the-scenes counsel will boost your confidence to handle situations that are outside of your comfort zone.

So how do you best utilize a mentor? Here are a few tips:

  1. Be respectful of their time. The best way to do that is to come prepared with specific questions so they can focus their support.
  2. Share the good stuff, too. Mentors like to know that their protégés are making things happen, so don’t just focus on your problems.
  3. Following up is your job. The ball is in your court to keep the relationship alive and thriving.
  4. Ask how you can help them. I always love this when a mentee asks me how they can help. It indicates they understand a mentor relationship is not a one-way street.

Secret number one: Know that YOU can be a mentor, too, regardless of your age and experience. There is always someone in your network who could look up to you if they were given the opening. When I was a recent college graduate, I was looking to others older and wiser to give me advice. That was perfectly fine. What I missed was that I could have reached out and helped some seniors at my college with my newfound post-grad experience! Look above you in the food chain, but also look back!

Regardless of where you are at in your career, you can make a positive difference in someone else’s Tweet This Quote

Secret number two: What about a mentor you don’t realize is a mentor? In my case, the person with the greatest influence on my life was my grandfather. When I was a young girl, he spent time with me reading books about his passion, the presidency, and we would do book reports almost every weekend. He was a self-educated man and instilled in me the fundamental belief that having an education gave you choices. Although he died when I was thirteen, his impact left an indelible stamp and set me on my life’s course. He helped me develop the confidence in the “you can” philosophy that I want for you in your life.

Mentoring is about developing relationships because you truly want to help someone else on their journey. Regardless of where you are at in your career, you can positively make a difference in someone else’s move up their ladder.

At the end of most of the chapters, I will present a few questions and/or reflective thoughts for you. These questions are meant to connect you with this book in a personal way so you can become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your motivations, your dreams, your skills, your vulnerabilities will all help you as you work your way to your “top.”

  • What most scares you about meeting people you don’t know?
  • Think back to a time in childhood when you were the new kid and it didn’t go so well.
  • Think back to a time it did go well.
  • When you feel nervous about meeting a new person, what makes you feel most at home (their smile, their questions, their ability to look you in the eye . . . ?)
  • Think back to a time that networking got you where you wanted to go, a job, a lead on a great apartment etc.
Jane Miller

Author Jane Miller

Jane Miller is CEO of ProYo Frozen Smoothie, CEO and founder of—a career advice website—and author of Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success). She has 30 years of executive and management experience at PepsiCo, Rudi's Organic Bakery and other companies.

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