11/16/2016 10:37 EST | Updated 11/16/2016 10:37 EST

The Importance Of Having A Mentor

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If you're lucky, you've had at least one great mentor in your life -- that special person who has inspired and encouraged you to be the best version of yourself, take risks and not be afraid to chase success.

If you're really lucky, you've had a few -- maybe your parents, a favourite aunt or uncle, teachers, coaches or former bosses.

One of the world's most famous women and committed mentors, Oprah Winfrey credits her fourth-grade teacher for much of her success. Winfrey has said that her teacher's belief in her made her embrace a love of learning. Winfrey also credits the late poet Maya Angelou. "Mentors are important and I don't think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship."

When I started working in public relations more than 15 years ago, one of my mentors was my now ex-husband, Jamie Dunn -- his belief in me gave me the courage to set up my own PR company and I was always grateful (and still am) for his support and encouragement.

Early on in my company's history, I worked with some equally encouraging clients who took a chance on a one-person shop and let me prove my value to them -- people like John Hunkin, Stephen Graham, Sarah Saso and Joanne Bull.

Fast forward 15 years later and the list of people who I call mentors goes on and on. Meeting so many different people through my work, and working with such a great team, I feel like I'm being inspired and learning from all of them all the time.

And I can't forget my son. When I first started out on my own, he was only 12 years old. He guided me then (as he does now) because I wanted to make decisions that would make him proud of me. Mentors don't always have to be older than you.

Mentors will often see something in you that you may not see yourself.

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." - Steven Spielberg, director.

So what does a mentor do? Mentors are those generous people who are open to sharing their knowledge, wisdom, experience, insight and offering their counsel. The best mentors are great listeners who understand your challenges and offer different strategies and ideas to not only help you overcome obstacles but excel at them.

Mentors will often see something in you that you may not see yourself. Famous photographer Ansel Adams, known for his iconic black and white photographs of the American West, credits his father who "tenderly kept alive his inner spark."

Actor and director Clint Eastwood credits his grandmother for always encouraging him. "She always thought I was going to be something, when nobody else, including myself, thought I was going to amount to anything," Eastwood has said.

Create a network of mentors

Of course, no one person (or mentor) has all the answers. At varying stages of your career, you'll need different guidance and advice. Many industry associations have formal mentorship programs where you'll be matched with someone. It's a great way to network and learn from people who are experienced in their field. More companies are also introducing formal mentorship programs where you are paired with a senior or peer employee.

Keep learning to keep growing

I've said this before and it's worth repeating. The only way to improve yourself and propel yourself forward (in your professional and personal life) is to keep learning and accepting new challenges. If there's a new project at work and no one is raising their hand to take it on, be the one that does.

Feel like you're in over your head? Find the courage to step outside your comfort zone and trust that you will succeed. Find someone who excels at project management and ask for their advice. Learning and mentoring opportunities are everywhere if you just slow down to find and receive them.

"Leaders should influence others in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others." - Bob Goshen, author, speaker and mentor.

Be a mentor yourself

I'm a great believer in giving back. If you feel you have something to offer (and we all do), find the time to mentor someone. Is there someone at work who you feel a connection with? You see their natural talent or potential but perhaps they're a little green or shy? Invite them for a coffee or lunch. Ask probing questions to find out about their passions. If you've enjoyed success in your career, then find the time to give back. You'll learn more about yourself and feel great about supporting the next generation of leaders.

Are you a mentor to someone? How do you motivate or inspire them? How can you mentor yourself? Tweet me @NatashaNKPR or leave a comment below.

Xo Natasha

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