The Value of a Professional Mentor

In your career — as in life — sometimes you need guidance and inspiration. Often the best choice for women is to turn to other women who’ve accomplished their career goals or overcome tough challenges.

Michelle Elrod of Regions Bank discusses the value of a professional mentorMichele Elrod, Head of Marketing for Regions Bank, is a strong believer in the value of women encouraging and helping other women in the workplace. Elrod recently offered pointers on how to make such a relationship successful.

Q: Why should women seek out professional mentors?

Elrod: Women have so many things to balance — family, career, parents and a social life — and so often they think they have to do everything well all the time. That’s not realistic. We all like to have Superwoman days, but some days just aren’t. A mentor can coach you through tough times and help you realize that balance doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly all the time. In the workplace especially, it’s extremely encouraging when another woman cheers you on and shows she cares about your success.

Q: How does that generally work?

Elrod: The woman I’m mentoring now was planning a major career shift and wanted me to help her understand how to navigate corporate waters, how to make decisions, where to push and where to stand back. Her business is very different from mine, but she wanted somebody to bounce questions off of.

She and I meet on a regular basis, generally for an hour and a half. She will email me in advance and tell me the toughest issues she’s struggling with or things she wants to discuss so we can focus our meeting around those topics. This way, the mentee maximizes our time together in a way that is most beneficial to her needs. Because their time together is so valuable, it’s really important that the mentee take ownership and make sure their time together is used effectively.

Q: Have you had women mentors who helped you navigate your career?

Elrod: I’ve had several informal mentors and role models over the years. I’ve worked with some very savvy, smart women, so I’ve tried to learn from what they do well and incorporate those things into my own life. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking a trusted manager or colleague “What skills would you recommend that I work on or try to change?” Even if it’s not a formal mentor relationship per se, you can gain a lot by talking about your work or life with someone you trust and respect.

Q: Have you ever made a career or life change based on advice from a mentor?

Elrod: Yes, and sometimes it’s the simplest life lessons or things people say that change how you view your job or your life. One of my favorite sayings came from a female colleague: “If you can’t see the world the way they see it, then just move your chair.” That’s really stuck with me.

Q:  What advice would you give other women in terms of advancing their careers or managing the work-life balance?

Elrod: There is no right or wrong way. Everybody has to make an individual decision about what balance looks like. In my opinion, you can’t give everything 100% of your attention. Recognize upfront that there are going to be some things that only get 50% or 75 percent. One thing I always say: Success is defined by you. You cannot define your success and measure yourself by looking at a co-worker or anyone else.


This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.