Barbara Bush: How to find a mentor

February 22, 2015, 4:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Barbara Bush

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is one piece of advice all millennials should take before entering the workforce? is written by Barbara Bush, co-founder of Global Health Corps.

Back in early January I shared four tips for aspiring leaders, and while much of that advice applies to millennials entering the workforce, there is one more important lesson I would add: build and nurture a robust professional network. Building and maintaining a professional network will help you to navigate the increasingly complex business world and provide support throughout your career – here’s how:

Find your passion. Perhaps you’ve known what you wanted to do all of your life – or perhaps you have no idea. If you get excited about a certain field, talk to people in a variety of roles and specialties focused on it. By listening to other people talk about their job and their passions, it can help you find your own. Ask them what they do, why it is meaningful to them, what they love most, what challenges them most, and how they got where they are today.

Make informed decisions. The scope and complexity of business challenges today means that effective problem solving is collective problem solving. With an alumni network of more than 450 leaders around the world, GHC encourages relationships with fellow classes. This peer-to-peer learning creates a global community and professional network of innovative thinkers and partners. Identify a person or group of people you can call for guidance as you encounter both challenges and opportunities.

Find a mentor. Identify someone at a senior level in the field that you would like to enter, or ideally within the same organization, as they can help you navigate office politics and internal dynamics. Having a confidant when work gets challenging or frustrating can help you see issues from different perspectives and helps build the resilience necessary to avoid burnout. Remember, you never need to do your work alone.

And while experienced professionals can help you navigate workplace challenges, make sure you also nurture a network of your peers. Learning and growing together, and sharing experiences will help you climb the ladder of success. Whether you’re 24 or 82, we all have something to learn from one another—teachers can be found everywhere.

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