I had several expectations of my first job out of college, all of which were pretty standard: things like being able to support myself financially and learning my way around a corporate environment. What I didn't anticipate was that I would also gain something more undefinable and elusive during the process: a mentor.
Jessica was only a few years older than me, though based on her maturity and my lack of experience, you would think there was a bigger age discrepancy. She was bright, hard working, and collaborative, qualities that made her a great boss and someone I looked up to immediately.
Prior to working at Condé Nast, I had gotten away with a questionable work ethic in school, relying heavily on my ability to find shortcuts in nearly every situation. But she taught me the value of seeking answers on my own and exhausting all possibilities before asking others for help. I learned how to work hard and be proactive, two important qualities that I attribute to my success in starting Cupcakes and Cashmere.
Finding a mentor seems like a daunting, complicated process, but it doesn't need to be. There was never a grand gesture when I showed up at Jessica's doorstep with a rose or even formally asked her if she'd take on that role. It happened organically and I simply took advantage of any guidance she provided.
I've continued to acquire mentors, people I admire in different capacities, whether it relates to his or her career (Rachel Zoe), relationship (Naomi and Josh) or lifestyle (Scott and Loren). I don't work in the same industry as all of them, nor do I even know each one personally, but I've found that even indirect mentors can be just as influential. Whenever possible though, establishing a dialogue is important, over a cup of coffee or via email (just make sure to keep things concise).
Mentors offer an invaluable source for both professional and personal growth. I have multiple people in my life who now look to me for guidance, which is both humbling and frightening. But being able to give back after years of accepting help from others is one of the more rewarding aspects of a role that truly comes full circle.