Building the Right Mentor Relationship (with Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret)

Lauren Stefaniak

Lauren Stefaniak
Director of Creative Operations
VICTORIA'S SECRET

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Podcast Episode 73

Summary

Lauren Stefaniak of Victoria's Secret joins Daniel for another round and this time we're talking mentorship. During our first episode with Lauren we talked about how to make a business case and in the course of that conversation we touched on the topic of mentorship a bit. We invited Lauren back to dig deeper into the mentor/mentee relationship, why it's a critical relationship for your growth and development, and for earlier career professionals, how to set your relationship up for success.

Key Takeaways

  • Last time we talked, I had opened up the possibility of talking mentorship with you and we didn't get a chance to touch on it. In your experience, how important is it to find a mentor?
    • The importance of a mentor is directly proportional to the importance you've set on your goals and your development
    • If you're one of those "i'm just happy to be here" kind of people, a mentor will probably feel unnecessary to you
    • If you're someone who has a target in mind (ie. I'm a manager and I want to be CMO someday, or I started a side hustle and I want to turn it into a full-time gig), it's a critical component on your journey to your goal to find a mentor (or a few!)
  • What should a person look for in a mentor?
    • Someone who has already achieved the goal you've set for yourself (NOT someone whose overall achievements are inspirational to you)
      • Meaning - if you have a goal to be a CMO, find someone who currently is or has been a CMO
      • This is NOT - I want to pursue X as a mentor because I think they live a really cool life and I want to be them
        • "Never meet your heroes"
        • Someone's life & success often is not as it seems
        • It is incredibly difficult & unlikely to mirror your entire life after someone else's
        • You'll fall flat in conversations if you're not clear on what you're looking to learn
    • Someone who is/was in your industry or one that's adjacent to yours
      • This leads to a natural progression of networking opportunities
      • Also cuts through the "language barrier" of having to over-explain your role/industry to glean meaningful recommendations toward your goal
    • Someone who is fairly accessible and open to continued communication
      • Goes without saying, but cold-calling a CEO of a Fortune 500 company probably won't get you anywhere
      • Someone with limited time can be great for a one-time conversation (you can learn a hell of a lot in one phone call), but would not work as a long-term mentor
    • Someone with a communication style that matches your own
      • By this I mean - you both prefer meeting in person, scheduling phone calls, sending emails, etc.
      • If you don't like talking on the phone and your prospective mentor keeps scheduling calls, it's probably not going to work over time
  • Have you been a part of any orgs that formalize the process of finding and having a mentor?
    • Once, professionally, and it was the worst thing in the world!
      • In one of my previous roles, it was a requirement for new hires as part of the onboarding process to attend quarterly “coffee chats” with a randomly-assigned mentor who may or may not be in your department
    • Mentorship has to be something both parties want to do & are ready for
    • And some of the best mentors operate outside the confines of a defined mentorship relationship
  • Does/should you mentor change over the course of your career?
    • They can, but they don't have to
    • Instances where they do change:
      • Your goal changes
      • Your mentor falls out of sync with your goals
      • Your mentor can no longer dedicate the time to you
    • Recommend having more than one mentor at all times:
      • Ensures you're hearing a diverse perspective of experiences & insights
      • Ensures you're not leaning too heavily on one particular person
        • Mentorship burnout can be real
  • What are your best tips for early career professionals in this biz on being a good mentee?
    • Be thoughtful in your approach to learning from your mentor
      • Ask detailed questions, not a general "how did you do X"
      • Don't ask something you can readily find on Google, but do use information you find as a launchpad to ask something else; ie. "I saw on LinkedIn you were at X company as CMO, what about that company made you want to accept that position there?"
    • Be respectful of your mentor's time
      • Show the hell up if you schedule something
    • Remember it's a two-way street
      • A good mentor is invested in your success
      • If they don't show up to something you've agreed on & scheduled, consider walking away
    • You can walk away from a mentor if it's not working out for you
      • We often have such high expectations walking into conversations with strangers, and occasionally it can turn out nothing like what you expected
  • Do you want to shout out to any of your mentors?
    • My current manager, Pamela!
    • I legitimately think she would shy away from officially being called a “mentor,” but has been my guiding light in my career
    • She helped shape my approach to mentorship, personal development & how I operate in my role:
      • "Your value is not in what you know, but how you think."

Links & Resources

James

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