The importance of mentors
Those who want to succeed in life understand the perspective a mentor brings. A mentor is invested in your professional success, as much and maybe even more so than you. Mentors believe in your abilities and want to make things happen for you.
Yes, it is possible to find such people! And, with so many of us being at home and having more availability than usual, we have a unique opportunity now to reach out to potential mentors.
Why is it especially important for women to have mentors?
Have you noticed that in the world of podcasters, lecturers, and workshop leaders, most of the speakers are men? This has over time become a standard across several industries. It doesn’t go to say that women cannot be good leaders or that we don’t want to succeed as much in our professional lives. However, as a young female dentist myself, I can immediately recognize the out-of-place feeling I get when I walk into a boardroom meeting, lecture, or even a dental society meeting where the majority of speakers and attendees are men. This is in a profession where 60% of my dental school graduating class was comprised of women.
And, if we see women in leadership, we are inspiring other women that yes, they too can have an amazing family life and a successful career, at the same time.
We can’t change how things are happening currently, but what we can do is influence what happens next. It is important for us as professional leaders in our communities, to sponsor both, young men and women to be our future leaders. When we have an equal footing in leadership, we inspire more people to recognize equality to be mainstream. And, if we see women in leadership, we are inspiring other women that yes, they too can have an amazing family life and a successful career, at the same time.
How many mentors do we need?
Different people have different skills. There are some people who are especially good at handling finances, there are others who have become accredited fellows with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry or Academy of General Dentistry in a short amount of time, and there are still others that are an epitome of good parenting skills.
Apart from professional mentors, there are parenting mentors, hobby mentors, money mentors and business mentors. Just like dentistry is not the only important aspect of your life, a professional mentor need not be the only mentor you seek.
How to find a mentor?
They are everywhere! They are at your school, on a podcast you listen to, sitting across you at a conference, someone you follow on Instagram, or if you are really lucky, they are in your close family and friend circle. It is important not to feel shy in approaching people. Technology is providing its biggest benefit to us—bringing the world closer, allowing you to reach out to anyone in seconds.
I found two of my professional mentors through school, teachers who have achieved success as academicians and as general practice dentists, both leading a balanced professional life I too would like to enjoy one day. I first reached out to them on Facebook just to say “hi!!” Another mentor I value is my father, a successful businessman who is admired and loved by his team. I’d like to be a well-liked leader too, someone who is passionate about the success of their firm, yet equally invested in the human capital that backs it.
How do you spend time with mentors?
Time is the most valuable commodity on the planet and instead of being with their families, reading good books or training their team, mentors are meeting with you. Make it worthwhile for them; ask them out for coffee and or lunch, and always offer to pay! Bring them macaroons or a nice dessert, something to take home with them. Be gracious while meeting with them, ask a few open-ended questions and be prepared to listen. Let them speak freely. I’ve noticed that we always get the best information when the conversation is allowed to go off-track and builds by itself. Later, thank them profusely for their time, follow up, and continue to stay in touch once a month.
Mentorship, like any other trusting relationship is a two-way street. Mentors mainly coach you because they gain fulfillment from doing so. They also gain in the experience of learning from you and with you. You provide a different perspective to them, and mentors focused on self-improvement, will find a mentee’s thoughts invaluable.
Mentors also want to feel appreciated. If they are always at the giving end and are never thanked for what they do, they will not feel inclined to help you anymore. Think about this every time your mentor recommends you listen to a webinar or read a particular book. This is them mentoring you. Acknowledge it, follow through and thank them for remembering you.
Should you sometimes be your own mentor?
Despite of this advice related to mentors, know that listening to your gut cannot be ignored. It is possible that sometimes, all of your mentors might tell you otherwise, but you strongly feel one particular way. Does that mean you don’t listen to yourself? That is a choice you need to make. I like to consider such a dilemma a calculated risk. Choosing to go through with the act, while being aware of the repercussions.
One such experience in my life was when after two years of applying to international dentist programs in the U.S. and not getting accepted, everyone I knew, mentors included, recommended I apply to schools elsewhere. I didn’t listen then. My gut told me to continue focusing on Plan A.
Well, here I am now.
Do you have a mentor? Are you looking for one? Reach out, let me help you!
Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist practicing in Seattle. A foreign trained dentist from India, she completed her DDS equivalency from the University of Washington in 2018. Sampada is a founding member of the New Dentist Business Study Club and a contributing member of her local Spear Study Club. Originally from Dubai, she looks forward to her weekly Bollywood dance class, hiking the beautiful PNW with her husband, and reading books on Finance & Management. You can reach her directly @dr.deshpande on Instagram.