[IMGCAP(1)]One of the enduring lessons I’ve learned over my career is the value of having mentors. In my experience, the advice, guidance, and encouragement of a wise and trusted mentor has been invaluable.

Mentoring is an ideal way to reach across all generations and share knowledge and experiences that are different for all of us.

I was fortunate to find a wonderful mentor early in my career.

After graduating from college, I started as a secretary at an insurance company where I met my first mentor who was my boss. Working with him was a major turning point in my life – he changed my job into a career. He was the first person outside of my family who believed in me, and thanks to his support and guidance, I became the first woman sales representative for that organization. He took me under his wing and gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and see the possibilities before me. He taught me about perseverance, integrity and to have the courage to take risks. Without his guidance at a pivotal point in my career, I would not have had the confidence stay the course and eventually become a leader at Deloitte.

Mentoring is the pairing of two individuals in a relationship where the mentor has experience and knowledge that the protégé wants to develop. Mentoring really is a two-way street; the best mentor is also a good protégé because both people gain and learn from the relationship.

Mentoring has been a part of Deloitte’s culture and development programs for a long time, and over the years we have learned a great deal about how to help our people get the most of out these relationships. So here’s my short list of lessons learned:

1.    Create your own board of advisors.  
Throughout our career, we need different types of mentoring and advice. At Deloitte we recognize four major areas where a mentoring relationship is valuable: skills and capabilities, external eminence, career/life fit, and professional development. A mentor who has a great deal to offer in one area may not be strong in another. Depending on your own needs, it may be desirable to have more than one mentor who can provide guidance and coaching. Building a “board of advisors” gives you access to a group of mentors who can help you work on a variety of development goals and offer diverse perspectives.

2.    Be prepared to learn from the younger generation.
In studying cross-generational differences at Deloitte, we stumbled on a hidden truth: the younger professionals have a great deal to teach their elders. We discovered that Gen Y professionals—as “technology natives” who view technology as an extension of themselves—have many skills they can teach their technology-challenged colleagues of the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, at one point members of our Deloitte Board of Directors were receiving mentoring from a team of our younger generations on becoming more tech-savvy. Gen Yers also have an instinctive understanding of how to use technology to work more flexibly. The notion of working any time, anywhere is very familiar to them and can be shared with anyone who is experiencing career/life fit issues.

3.    Embrace the “power of one
I personally believe in the concept of the “Power of One,” the idea that each of us can make a difference, one person at a time. It goes beyond the normal reach of mentoring to actually owning another individual’s success and career. Ownership is stronger than mentorship and I ask you to identify one woman whose success you will own. Have that one conversation with her which will create a career-defining moment that will stay with her for the rest of her career. Imagine the impact if each of us owned another woman’s success, taking mentorship to the next level. When you make that personal commitment, you will see how the power of one can multiply and how your efforts can yield extraordinary results.

Barbara Adachi is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP based in San Francisco, leader for the Human Capital Consulting Practice in the West Region, and the national managing principal of Deloitte’s Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women.