The mentee

As a child, Annette Tarver grew up in her father’s demolition engineering contracting business, where she learned how to dig in and get the job done. It was one of the best team atmospheres that she’s ever worked in.

“I think it was just the mentality of, ‘All for one and one for all,’” she says. “There was a sense of a shared vision and everyone was working toward that goal. The goals were very clearly articulated, and everyone understood the way forward.”

She garnered a lot of her business knowledge working with her father, and today she puts it into practice as president of Blackwell Consulting Services of Ohio LLC, a Cincinnati-based information technology and management consultancy.

But throughout her experiences there, she also realized the value of having someone to learn from in her career, as her father served as one of her biggest mentors in life. As a result, today, she says one of the best things you can do to up your career game is to have a mentor.

“It’s important to have somebody who is knowledgeable, not necessarily just about your business but about business generally, who can help you and advise you in a number of areas,” she says.

If you’re trying to choose a mentor, you have to look at a few factors to ensure you make the right choice.

“You have to get a person who has the time to do it,” Tarver says. “It’s critical because a lot of people need stuff, and they pick a person who’s too busy or overwhelmed or too famous or too whatever, and they can’t really help them. A mentor could be anybody. It can be a person who runs the small accounting business next door, or it could be anyone who works with you on problems and helps you create a shared vision in your company and for yourself.

“I think the most important thing is to find someone who really has the time and formerly outlines what it is you’re expecting as a mentee and what you’re going to bring to the relationship and what you ask of them as a mentor.”

Those expectations are critical in the mentor-mentee relationship.

“It’s a two-way relationship,” she says. “I think mentees think they’re just going to get all of this information and everything and there’s nothing in it for them to do, and I also think that if you’ve been mentored, it’s a great opportunity for you, once you’ve attained some of your goals, to reach out and help someone else, especially for women. I don’t think we have enough of that going on in some of the things that we’re doing.”

When you have that mentoring relationship, it’s important to connect constantly and give each other feedback. While Tarver has been on the mentee end throughout her career, today she mentors other women by volunteering with Dress for Success.

If you create these mentoring relationships for yourself and your organization, it can help people feel more connected, understood and valued.

“I’ve found that people are most comfortable and most productive when they’re in environments where they feel valued,” Tarver says. “It has less to do with how much you pay them or what their role is, if they’re the boss in charge of all kinds of stuff or the lowest person on the totem pole, but if you value people and give people good feedback constantly, that imparts that they are part of the team and are important and matter to the outcome of the company.”

As she reflects back on her experiences with various mentors, Tarver says one of the biggest things she learned was how critical the role that discipline plays in success and how to better approach problems she’s facing.

“The biggest thing is there are many answers to a question or there are many solutions to a problem, and the biggest thing I’ve learned is you really have to ask for and seek the collective wisdom of a lot of other people and try to put the options together in ways to come out with the best solution that you can for whatever it is you’re trying to deal with.”

How to reach: Blackwell Consulting Services of Ohio LLC, (866) 997-2276 or