You’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of mentoring and how a mentor can be an invaluable resource to a mentee’s professional development.
This career-furthering strategy can allow you to gain insight into a mentor’s experiences, become connected to their networks, and help guide you through challenging situations that will inevitably arise throughout your career. They can also share new areas of improvement. Regardless of where you are in your career – a recent graduate, a new manager, or a seasoned professional – everyone can benefit from a mentor to help guide them on their career journey.
Seeking a willing mentor isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t yet know many people in your prospective industry. Fortunately, here are some ways to find a mentor and to make the relationship stick.
How to identify prospective mentors
If you’re looking to get the most out of a mentorship, the first step is to identify your attributes and the goals you’re looking to accomplish.
A mentorship relationship is just as valuable for the mentee as it is for the mentor. Because this is a mutually beneficial relationship, you must be willing to work hard, remain flexible, and be open to feedback and criticism. You should also know the goals you have set for your professional growth and think about what it might take to fulfill achievement. This legwork will create a starting point for your conversations with a prospective mentor and help narrow your scope to identify prospective mentors.
During your actual search, do not be afraid to look outside your company. While some companies have formal mentoring programs that make it easy for employees to find a mentor, it’s not the only option for you. Finding a mentor independently can be a rewarding experience that allows you to explore people in your industry and align with your career aspirations.
When searching for a mentor, it’s a good idea to be thorough. One avenue is searching for potential suitable mentors at your place of work. Another approach is to expand your reach by asking your network, searching online, and being active in any relevant groups. This will allow you to have a pool of prospective mentors to help you move into the next step.
How to make the ask
Once you have identified a potential mentor, it’s time to pop the question. For most of us, asking someone to serve as a mentor is an opportunity to conquer your fear and take a risk. You can’t predict how they will respond, but the benefits often outweigh any worries.
When you make the initial request, there is no proven formula to follow, and you don’t need a formal request – especially if you don’t have an existing relationship. The best approach you can take is to be honest, respectful, kind, and helpful. This will allow your potential mentor to have the information needed to give thoughtful consideration to your request.
For a more casual approach, ask if the potential mentor will meet with you for advice about your career. This approach allows you to gauge whether you value the advice and if they seem invested in your career development. If the experience is positive, you can update the request to see if they will meet once a quarter to chat.
How to make the relationship stick
Arguably the most important step towards finding a mentor is to make the relationship stick. The key is to take the time to time to invest in the kinship and remember that you’ll grow faster from putting more effort into your time together.
Some important tips to nurture the mentor-mentee relationship include.
1. Respect their time
It’s no secret that time is the one resource money can’t buy. We’re all busy people, and that probably goes double for your mentor. Be sure to respect their time by scheduling meetings, staying on track, and being prompt.
2. Keep regular communications
Whether it’s in person, via email, or by phone, regular communication is vital to continue strengthening the mentor-mentee relationship and to track progress and success.
3. Listen and learn
Your mentor has most likely conquered some major mountains in their life. Have an open mindset and allow them to teach you by approaching each meeting with a posture of humility. You can do this by asking good questions, being an intentional listener, and maintaining a desire for growth.
4. Maintain transparency
It’s important to approach your mentor by being candid about the issues central to your career and progression. Doing so will allow you to receive more streamlined feedback that is essential to your needs. Plus, it can also help you discover the most productive way of working together.
5. Be resilient
A major component of mentoring relationships is receiving feedback and criticism. Be sure to use this information constructively by channeling it into self-improvement and renewed approaches to work activities.
Some Relationships are Seasonal But Worth It
Finally, remember that mentorships will come and go based on where each person is in life. Don’t feel guilty but close the loop respectfully. No matter where you are in a career journey, finding a mentor and learning how to make the most of their time and expertise will help keep you on track to achieve your goals, no matter what stage you are at in your career. The task may seem large at first but the benefits of finding someone who is already living the dream you’re looking to accomplish is well worth the search.