Recently I have been asked a lot of questions about mentorship and how to find a mentor, so I wanted to share some of the answers that I have been giving with all of you!
Here are the answers to the top five mentoring questions I always receive, including how to find a mentor in a natural way:
1) What are the benefits of having a mentor?
A mentor will show you the ropes and help you succeed. You can confide in them and know that they have your back when you are facing a tough situation at work and have no one else to speak to.
2) What should you expect from a mentor-mentee relationship?
Take the focus off of yourself and what you need right now, and help them instead. Ask them what their biggest goals and issues are right now and then work your butt off to help them reach their goals or get rid of any issues they have.
There are many ways you can do this. You can help them with research. You can connect people in your network to them. You can write out a sample business plan for them. You can volunteer to take over a project for them at work. If you help them, they will help you. It’s that simple.
And of course, you have to remember to help you mentor by initiating the meetings and relationship. So don’t wait for them to call you. If it has been a while, contact them and ask to get together again. If you have a question, feel free to email them.
If you are still scared, just think about how it will actually flatter your mentor when you ask them questions about their life and their success. You aren’t nagging or bugging them. You are telling them how awesome you think they are and how you want to learn from them. Many people are honored to help share their tips and advice and to talk about their lives.
3) What should you look for in a potential mentor?
Look for someone in the career that you want someday. Someone that you admire and who is honest, authentic and hard working. Know what your values are and find a mentor who has those similar values. You also want to have a mentor that you get a long with so that it is natural. So you have to make sure you have spoken before and that both sides enjoyed the conversation.
4) What’s the best way to approach a potential mentor?
I believe that mentorship has to be natural and not forced. None of the mentors I had did I ever call my “mentors.” But looking back at my professional life, that is exactly what they were. One of my mentors connected me with everyone in her address book and eventually got me my first job.
Another mentor taught me all about networking and informational interviews. Another mentor helped guide me through my first job out of college and made sure that I got promoted my first year.
There is no way that I would have been as successful as I was at my company without her guidance that first year. If I went up to them today, they would never know how pivotal they were in my life and how much they influenced me.
They probably had no idea they were even my mentors. Why? Because it was so natural and it didn’t need the formal mentor relationship where you each sign a document you will meet a certain amount of times per year, etc.
5) What’s been your experience as a mentor/mentee? Any standout lessons to pass on?
When I was in business school, I also joined a formal mentor program. We all signed this form that we would be in the mentorship for a year and would obey the rules. That forced mentor program didn’t go very well. I can’t even tell you what I even got out of it because the person I was matched with just didn’t fit with me. It wasn’t natural, it was forced. (He liked to watch the basketball game that was going on right behind me while I talked. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work for me).
Find someone that you get along with and that you admire. Be picky. It is really important to find someone that is in the position where you want to be someday. Then just try to get to know him or her as much as possible and ask him or her questions.
Whatever you do, don’t come out of the blue and say, “Will you be my mentor?” That’s a bad way to start. Why? Because people are busy and if someone asked me that, I would get overwhelmed. How do I help them? What if I don’t work well with them? What are her goals? Has she even done any research on me?
There are so many reasons not to ask that question. Just don’t do it. Instead, make it natural and get to know them as much as possible first.
Have you ever had a mentor? What tips do you have for finding or building a relationship with a mentor?
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