Mentorships can assist you a great deal throughout your career which makes them something often sought after by professionals. Mentors can help you at many points in your career, giving valuable resources and guidance that can aid in advancement to the “next level”.
Many people ask how to find a mentor, since they do not just come knocking at our doors (at least not often anyway). So, how do we go about finding a mentor and how can we make it something that is truly beneficial to us? Here are a few things to help in the process.
What do you want from your ideal mentor?
Going in blind is not an option. You need to be driven and show your potential to give the person reason to invest their time in you. With that in mind, think about what you want the mentor to help you with. Will it be job specific, dealing with a raise, promotion or career path? Building your image and personal brand? Or, something more broad scoped (life centric)? What you want from a mentor will have a major impact on who and how you approach mentorship. Be prepared and organized with a clear understanding of what you are looking to gain and what a mentor can provide.
Understanding mentor roles
Mentor roles are the things that you should expect from a mentor, keep in mind the mentor will be reliant on their personal experience, and your compatibility with that persons experience is essential. They will be investing their time into you and are there to guide you, not to do work for you! Mentors will often:
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses (Side note: In order to continually improve you should understand these yourself).
- Give you guidance. Although it will be earned, not just handed out. You must prove you are worthy to get that valued advice. (Advice should be reciprocated whenever possible).
- Give new perspectives on organizations/topics, correct wrong thinking.
- Provide insight into your trade (tricks and tips).
- Provide resources to help you improve the quality of your work, network, etc. This may also include references which can assist with career advancement.
Where to find mentors
Do not underestimate the value that can be gained from unexpected sources. High-level businessmen and women are not your only avenue for advice. Family, friends, neighbors, and even people online will all have different levels of experience, some of which might be applicable to your situation. The key to finding mentors is to look for opportunity to grow and improve with the help of others, with the realization that help may come from unexpected sources.
Mentors can arise from all types of circumstance you just need to put yourself out there, it is unlikely that your ideal mentor will just show up at your doorstep.
Take advantage of the advice you can get for free. There is more accessible information available now than there ever has been in the history of the world. There is a wealth of information just waiting to be used, so use it! Professional articles, blogs, and podcasts from industry leaders are readily available on pretty much whatever topic you are interested in. Not to mention networking events, seminars, and conventions as well as the capability to connect and learn through social media. Use these to your advantage and get a head start on your personal growth.
Does your employer have a mentoring program?
If your company offers a mentorship program, set your goals and apply! If not you will have to seek out the mentor on your own. Reach out to colleagues and/or business acquaintances with the experience you are seeking. Look for a mentor with a great reputation in and out of the office. Prior bosses are an option, but avoid current managers/supervisors. Business contacts you have made throughout your career (past and present) can present opportunities for mutually beneficial agreements (you help them, they mentor you). Contacts, such as those, where you already have a base relationship and a common background also have a tendency to be more approachable.
Alumni and friends from college or even professors are options to look into, the bond created through your alma mater is definitely a viable connection.
Asking someone to mentor you
Your approach about mentorship should be done tactfully. Take baby steps if you will, see how you can help the person while seeking advice a little at a time. Gradually suggest that you would be interested in their help on a more consistent basis. A straight forward and outright request for mentorship too early can come across aggressive and can scare people off.
A mentorship does not have to be from a single source and last for years. You can have many mentors throughout your life that help you along your path. How you find them may change as may their purpose but the effort needs to be made on your part to seek them out in the first place. Learn what can, when you can. When ready, give back and help someone else through the experience you have gained.
By: Renee Walrath