Whether you’re an employee fresh out of college or a senior leader of a thriving conglomerate, you need a mentor. While there are many career development options out there, mentorship provides first-hand experience books and online courses cannot. Your journey toward professional growth can be much easier with a mentor’s presence.
Tread lightly, however. Not everyone in your circle of colleagues or current company can give you mentorship opportunities. There is a difference between a boss and a mentor, and to be able to find a latter, you must know what you are looking for.
Here are 4 tips you can follow in finding mentor/s and making them stay. These tips, plus suggestions on how to follow them, will hopefully give you a head start on looking for the best person, or people, who will help you in your professional growth.
1. Be clear what a mentor is NOT.
You’ll need a clear picture of the person you are looking for. Answering the question “What is a mentor?” is easy, but defining what it’s not, makes the search less complicated. To find a mentor means to know what they can and cannot give you and will help avoid disappointment in the end.
- A mentor is not a sponsor. Opportunities for professional growth can be found in many ways, but it is not your mentor’s responsibility to provide them. Job openings, professional lectures, etc. — mentors may have input on them, but don’t expect they will search them for you.
- A mentor is not a source of all answers. What will be 100% sure is your experience will be entirely different from your mentor’s. Your struggles will be different. Your mentors can only guide you in finding ways to solve problems unique to your professional journey.
- A mentor is not just one person. It would be better for you to spread out your mentorship opportunities. Some professionals find solace in partnership-style or group-style mentoring, such as peer evaluations or groups dedicated to newbie professionals. Having more than one mentor also provides you with a myriad of perspectives that may give you a better view of your situation.
2) Prepare yourself for mentorship.
To be at the receiving end of mentorship will not be a walk in the park. You’ll be subject to harsh truths and criticisms. To find a mentor means to be ready for what they will give you.
- Learn to mentor yourself first. A level of independence has to be present, so your mentors can build trust in your capacity to be mentored. Be your own motivator, and take charge of your decisions when it comes to career development. A degree of professional self-awareness tells potential mentors that guiding you is a viable investment.
- Be teachable. What will attract mentors to you is your willingness to learn. What will make your mentors stay is your ability to apply what they teach you. Your reception to feedback says a lot about how effective the mentorship is.
- The mentorship journey will be challenging. The best mentors are somewhere between a cheerleader and a drill sergeant. They will encourage you but will not shy away from giving tough love. Take everything with integrity and as a learning experience. Remember that everything you will get is for the sake of professional growth.
3) Approach the right people.
Mentorship opportunities will come from someone willing and able to give them. However, that person has to be the right fit. It is your job to narrow down your choices on who will be the appropriate mentor for your professional journey.
- Find a mentor who can relate to you. While professionals who have decades in the field sound wise and experienced, they might not have the perspective you need right now. Consider someone familiar with your situation, perhaps a colleague three to five years ahead of you.
- Think of your goals for the mentorship. If you wish to be a manager, in the long run, a good mentor is someone who is in the leadership community of your field. If you just want to get better generally, a co-worker who works closely with you would be enough. Make sure your chosen mentor will contribute well to your professional future.
- Express your interest to be mentored. A good time to tell your mentors of your intention is in a relaxed, informal environment. You can take them to dinner or coffee, and in your conversations, try to get a vibe of your mentor-mentee relationship and set boundaries for the mentorship. Speaking up that you want to be mentored makes things concrete and puts everything in perspective.
4) Maintain the relationship.
Let’s say someone said yes to mentoring you; your task doesn’t end here. It takes work to find a mentor, so make sure the partnership you have will last.
- Make things easy for your mentor. Ask them how they would like to meet with you or how they want to deliver feedback. Adjusting to their terms is one way to help your mentors help you. Of course, be professional with the time they offer. Be on time, reschedule meetings only when necessary, and make do with the time they set for mentoring sessions.
- Show them you are listening. A way for mentors to feel appreciated is by making sure you get what they are saying. Engage with their input through follow-up questions or asking about specific situations. You can also ask permission to record meetings through video conferencing apps.
- Tell them what’s working and what isn’t. It’s okay if their words of wisdom did not really help you, but be open about this, so your mentors can adjust how they can guide you further. And when there is significant progress, tell them about it and say thank you. When mentors know that they are leading you in the right direction, it validates their work.
The mentor you have right now won’t be with you forever. But with the right knowledge on how to find the next mentor and make the partnership last will aid you well in building your skills and professionalism.
We at Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS) value the great work mentors do in building integrity and character in the workplace. To gather more insights on learning and development and career growth, have a look at the ICS Blog, or contact us to know more about our consulting solutions.