Built By Girls’ executive director Tiana Kara shares ways to be on either side of a great mentorship.
– KEYS SOULCARE
As an African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” While we feel these words on so many levels, they especially ring true when it comes to mentoring. Having someone offer guidance and cheer you on from the sidelines can be a game-changer for your learning, growth, and daily connection.
Want to bring some mentorship into your life? We grabbed a chat with Tiana Kara, the executive director of Built By Girls, about what makes a great mentor and why finding mentoring (digital, IRL, or otherwise) is way less complicated than most of us think.
Tell us about your role at Built By Girls?
My responsibility is to develop the strategic direction for the brand and ensure our team sees it through. I view my role as the conductor of a symphony. Our team is made up of a diverse group of incredible women with fantastic skills and expertise — all with the same passion for uplifting non-binary people and young women and helping them step boldly into their first career or internship.
It’s my job to bring out their talents and give them a platform to shine.
What has mentoring meant to you, personally?
The idea of mentorship has evolved greatly during my time at BBG. I once saw a mentor as one person who guided you through college and your entire career, but I realized a few years ago just how limiting that definition really was. It’s rare that one person can do that.
Instead, I recommend looking for guides with a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise — like your own personal board of advisors. These folks are your instructors, supporters, and guardians, and can help you with everything from finance to family.
Why does your work inspire you?
The work I’m doing is a form of healing for my younger self. I didn’t have much direction when it came to choosing my major in college or career path post graduation. I felt limited, confused, and stuck.
It took me until I was 30 to realize the options I truly had. I work to ensure these students know that there’s room to explore, and that their opportunities are limitless. I also want them to prepare for the obstacles they may face on their professional journey, from imposter syndrome, to sexism, to microaggressions.
What advice would you give to someone looking to mentor for the first time?
I’d love to say that anyone can be a mentor, but honestly that’s not always the case. The blocker isn’t your title, education, or notability, but whether or not you can carve out time to be the kind of support someone needs.
If you do have that time, what’s your advice?
Listen first. You can’t help someone unless you know their story. Ask them questions that reveal their current situation, concerns, fears, ambition, and even their existing expertise. Your personal experience is the best toolbox for mentorship. Be honest about areas where you failed and succeeded.
Work to establish goals and help your mentee build a plan to track progress and achieve them, whether it be studying for an exam or shooting for a promotion.
And, prepare to [potentially] be ghosted. Some mentees are prepared to do the work, and others simply are not.
Lastly — and this is my personal belief — your mentee should ask you to be their mentor. Like any relationship, a mentor/mentee bond takes work, so you want to make sure the mentee is serious.
How about if you’re looking for a mentor yourself?
Identify key areas in your life where you are looking to grow or advance. Once that is established, think of people in your life that are crushing it in those areas; it doesn’t matter if it’s a direct connection or someone you haven’t even met.
Now that you have that list, think of those who might be willing to share that knowledge with you. They may have proven this by giving speeches, lectures, volunteering, or mentoring other people. Schedule a conversation where you express your interest, purpose for mentorship, and willingness to do the work. Then you are on your way!
Did you have a mentor? Have you been one to someone else? What gifts and lessons did it leave you with? Share your thoughts in the comments!