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Broaden your idea of who can be a mentor

The most relevant knowledge for career growth may not always come from the CEO.

two people using a flashlight in the dark

Seek mentors who are a few steps ahead of you in their career. | Illustration by Kevin Craft

In the final episode of the LEAP! podcast, Tellus founder Tania Abedian-Coke (MS ’17, Management Science and Engineering) and Intercom product manager Lauren Ottinger (MA ’14, Communication) join Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice in Stanford Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, to take a deep dive into mentorship.

Abedian-Coke and Ottinger converge on one insight in particular: Finding an informal mentor who has just a little more experience than you, rather than someone more established, sometimes leads to the most relevant and timely advice.

Seelig concurs: “Asking for guidance from someone who has a clear memory of what you just went through is much less daunting, and more relevant, than asking the CEO of your favorite company.”

After you find a mentor, though, you have to cultivate them. Seelig and her guests advise treating mentorship as a two-way relationship, not a one-way transaction. That means not just showing gratitude, but providing a mentor with complementary resources. If the mentor is older than you, you might serve as a sounding board on your own generation’s perspective. At the very least, consider sending a link to an interesting article now and then to keep the conversation advancing.

You can listen to this episode and dig into other LEAP! episodes via Stitcher, iTunes, Spotify or Stanford eCorner.

In the LEAP! podcast, Tina Seelig — Professor of the Practice in Stanford Engineering’s Department of Management Science and Engineering — takes a deep dive into how to launch a career. LEAP! is produced by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.