It’s no secret: Mentorship is important.
Finding a good mentor, however, can be harder than finding the right person to marry. You may get lucky and end up at a company with a formal mentorship program, but most organizations don’t have systematic mentoring efforts.
This leaves you with two options: either you wait for someone to recognize how brilliant you are and offer to mentor you or you start to actively identify and approach the people who would best aid your personal development. I would highly recommend the latter.
Sure, searching for the right mentor takes more effort on your part, but it’s more realistic that you’ll find someone. Not to mention, proactively searching for a mentor is signal to mentors that you’re a person worth investing in.
Now that you’re on the hunt for a mentor, here are the steps to finding one:
1. Identify what you need, not who you need.
Before you start approaching people who can help, think about the kind of help you need.
Are you trying to learn how to move up in a certain industry? Do you want to learn how to sharpen your management skills? Are you hoping to learn how to close sales deals?
Making a list of your needs will help you know what kind of assistance to ask for. Some of the items on your list might even be satisfied through reading, training sessions and other resources.
2. Evaluate yourself as a prospective protégé.
I want you to really think about how prepared you are to be mentored. Not everyone is ready for such a relationship. You need to be sure that you are committed to improving upon the areas you identified; otherwise, you may risk damaging the relationship with your potential mentor.
Put yourself in your mentor's shoes: Why should he or she take you on as a protégé? If you think you are holding yourself back, try to determine why. It may be that you find it hard to ask for help.
3. Identify mentor candidates.
Go back to the list you generated in step one and think of individuals who can provide you with the help you are looking for. You may be surprised who you already have in your network that may fulfill your needs.
Some important questions to consider:
Who are the most influential people I know? These people have the potential to become a mentor or they may have the connections to introduce you to someone else who could become your mentor.
Who can help me or would like some help? If you can offer value to a project that your potential mentor is working on, this might be the best-case scenario to get some hands-on experience while working side-by-side with your mentor.
Where are they in their careers? Depending on your goals, you want to make sure all mentor prospects have actually had the experience you are looking for.
Have they mentored before and what are the results? If there is any way for you to figure out your prospects' history with working with other individuals, you can get a good idea of what to expect.
Your time is valuable; you want to make sure you are positioning yourself for the most development. Also, individuals with a history of mentoring are more likely to be open to the relationship.
4. Prepare for the obstacles.
Before you approach anyone, you should take a similar preparation approach to interviews. It is important to find out about this person’s job responsibilities and special interests and to talk to others who know this candidate. Anticipate possible questions and concerns.
When mentors invest their time into individuals, they think there is a high probability that said individuals will be successful and simply receptive to learning. Ultimately, you become a reflection of your mentor, so it’s important to make a case for why the relationship would work for the both of you.
5. Approach possible mentors.
There are direct and indirect tactics for approaching potential mentors. Indirectly, you can choose to work with someone on a project or try to work where you think your mentor candidate can see you in action.
I took a year to work with a few entrepreneurs who I thought would be extremely valuable to my personal growth and invested a lot of time in helping them develop their companies. Today, they are more than happy to take a call from me 24/7.
A direct approach is achieved by simply contacting the person and building rapport. This approach is a lot more straightforward, but you will know whether a mentor is interested right off the bat. I’ve contacted individuals on LinkedIn and others who were friends of friends of friends.
Additional Things To Consider When Looking For A Mentor
Finding a mentor is really more about the mentor and less about you. You want to make a case for why someone would want to mentor you, seeing as time is of the essence, especially for any prospective, successful professional you are interested in shadowing.
If you are not taking the initiative to constantly invest in your time in turn, and to advance your knowledge, it becomes increasingly difficult for a mentor to guide you.
Mentors are not there to help you day by day, or to coach you on your personal matters. They are there to act as a voice of reason and support system when you need it most. When you find yourself in the lowest of lows, mentors are the ones who are there to guide you back to the top.
Photo credit: WENN