No matter where you sit in your career — at the very beginning or swiftly rising through the ranks — everyone can use someone to bounce ideas off and gain useful insight. That’s where having a mentor serves as a major asset. Mentorship has proven beneficial in business, which is why Salesforce’s Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Beckwith invited Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce’s EVP, global customer success & strategy, to join her for the third episode of web series #BossTalks

The two executives discuss the differences between mentorship (working with a trusted advisor or peer who offers advice, help with key work or life moments, and could turn into an ongoing relationship) and sponsorship (taking mentorship up a level with someone even more experienced and who can advocate on your behalf) and a number of subjects, including:

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Setting up your personal board of directors

Taychakhoonavudh says we all need mentors. These are people who help guide our careers. They can be your first boss; a more seasoned colleague who can help show you the ropes; someone outside your company you’ve met at a conference. You can have one person or a few trusted advisors. “Whether you call someone a mentor or whether you call them your personal board of directors,” she says,” [This is] a trusted circle where you can really get advice, people who know you and people who can be very neutral and objective about maybe a decision that you have to make.” Taychakhoonavudh says having a sponsor is not an absolute need, but having a mentor is “crucial.”

Finding and maintaining a mentor relationship

Finding a mentor usually starts by having some sort of a relationship with the person you want to mentor you. Reaching out to someone you respect but don’t really know is probably not a great idea. Sometimes the relationship can happen organically and grow through casual conversations. Taychakhoonavudh points out that a mentor relationship can and should be a two-way street. The mentee can also bring knowledge and insight to the relationship. “Be prepared and think about the mentor and what’s in it for them?” she says. “What can you share that would be extra learning for them?” 

Everyone has a busy schedule and some people you may want to approach as a mentor have very packed schedules. Keep this in mind as you think about the frequency of your talks or meetings. While you may consider monthly check-ins a reasonable request, the mentor may find that burdensome. She also points out you should share your accomplishments with your mentor — and not just the professional ones. Sometimes it’s just about sharing what’s going on in each other’s personal lives. Taychakhoonavudh says she has continued to speak quarterly with former team members who she no longer works with simply because she cares about them and their successes.  

“If you had an ad-hoc moment where you’re like, ‘Give me some advice on this particular scenario,’ you should always go back afterwards and say how it turned out,” she adds. “Always close that loop with the mentor. If you work at it, everything takes a little bit of work, it can be years and years of just a fruitful relationship.”