The first woman in her family to graduate from college, Caroline Ghosn was at her Stanford commencement ceremony when she realized that her path was about to be totally uncharted. “When you’re in school, there are rules,” she says. “They’re not perfect, but they’re fair. You know that if you do certain things, you’ll get certain grades.” The professional world didn’t seem so black and white. “I was standing there on the threshold of my adult life thinking, ‘Now what?’”
She struggled with questions like: Is it appropriate to negotiate your first job offer right out of college? How do you do that? What’s it like to start managing people? “You don’t learn the answers to those questions—unless you have a mentor,” she says. “Levo is a digital solution to that.” Since she started the platform, users sign on daily to find jobs, get career advice and network. “Levo is meant to inspire you or teach you something when you need it most,” says Caroline. “Our mission is to enable this generation of leaders to live a purposeful life and have an impact. I wouldn’t limit that to women or men—this is actually about a whole generation.”
We spoke with Caroline about mentorship—what it means today, how to find it and how to make the most of it. She shares her top five rules.
Figure out your own needs before seeking a mentor
Very often, millennials in the early stages of their careers overlook the extremely important exercise of defining their purpose. It is critical that you take the time to identify what you want to do, why you want to do it and how you want to do it—even if it’s not a perfectly crafted statement just yet. You could have the most incredible mentor or learning opportunity right in front of you, but you won’t be open to it if you’re not sure what you’re trying to get out of it.
Combine digital and in-person networking
Humans are relationship- and community-driven beings. Technology is not a replacement for a relationship or face-to-face interaction; it just allows you to interact in more ways. I use technology as a way of increasing the surface area for interaction and making mentorship scalable.
Use your “purpose” as your North Star
Understanding your purpose allows you to look at your life with the eyes of a learner. You’ll be able to easily identify people or circumstances or teachings that are aligned with the direction you want to go. It also has a funny way of working in the other direction—you also attract people into your orbit who are more aligned with where you’re going. When they meet you, they feel like they want to share in the direction that you’re going and help you get there; it’s really satisfying for them.
Build a board of advisors
People are confused about the definition of mentorship. We recently ran a survey with a few thousand of our members and one thing was very clear—people have the general sense that having a mentor is important, but they’re not quite sure what a mentor is or how to find one or whether they may even already have on. We always hear questions like, “Wait, do I have a mentor? Are you my mentor? Is it okay to ask that? How does this work?” Mentorship can be a one-on-one relationship with someone who unlocks your fullest potential, but that puts a lot of pressure on one person to be your advocate and advisor in every situation, even when the timing isn’t right. I like a more expansive definition of mentorship, which includes other ways of transmitting information and inspiration. You don’t just have one mentor who’s the be all end all, but instead you have several, almost like a board of advisors. They have different areas of expertise, relate to different aspects of your career and represent different qualities that you hope to emulate. You learn from each of those people in conjunction with each other; you unlock and democratize your ability to learn.
See mentorship as a two-way street
Whether you’re a mentor or mentee, that relationships is about seeing someone’s vision for their own future and helping them get there in any way you can. You learn from where they’ve been, and they do the same with you—both of you benefit from the relationship. Try to understand what’s important to the other person. Set up a Google alert so that you know what’s going on their lives. Say your mentor just got a promotion or took on a new initiative. It’s likely to be somewhere in the news or somewhere on social media, and it gives you an opportunity to reach out and say, “Hey, this new initiative that you’re doing looks amazing. I hope that you’re doing well. Let me know how I can help.” Often, as a mentee, you have a lot more to offer than you might think you do. We’re the first generation of digital natives—maybe you can help with their social strategy, building an online brand or connecting with millennials.
For more information on this topic, check out Levo’s Summer of Mentorship.
Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump
Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo