We know how valuable mentorship is to our careers, yet when it comes to actually finding a mentor we can feel clueless or unsure where to start.
Besides not knowing how to go about it, it can also feel kind of weird or awkward. Or maybe that’s just me :)
I can tell you that having a mentor can be a career game changer! It’s difficult to know how to navigate all the uncharted territories that come with building your work history and making major moves in your professional life. A trusted mentor can help.
First, let’s be clear about what a mentor is.
A mentor is a guide or advisor that is more experienced than you. A mentor shares that knowledge and experience with you, gives advice and supports you along your journey. It’s often a lifelong relationship but can also be something that only spans a particular timeframe, work experience or project that you may be working on.
So how do you find a mentor without feeling weird or pushy?
First, start with the obvious.
Many companies offer in house mentorship programs. You may be paired with a more senior leader in the organization. You may even have the opportunity to select who you want your mentor to be, or what area of the company you want them to come from. Take full advantage of this opportunity if it’s available and start there.
Now, if you don’t have a company program in place, here is what you can do...
1 - Identify several people you admire.
Who do you know that might make a great mentor? Who do you look up to and would love to have coffee with? Who is someone whose brain you would die to pick? Create a list of several people that you see as possible mentors for you, or dream mentors. It can be just about anyone! Seriously, don’t limit yourself to only looking at people in your field or people that you know. Mentors can come from many different unexpected places and provide new and interesting perspectives.
2 - Be extremely helpful.
I don’t advise you cold-call all the people you admire and ask if they will mentor you, that will not work. The thing about mentorship is that it can’t be forced, and often evolves from a few very small interactions with someone and then, over time, transforms into mentorship.
The best way to start that organic growth is by being extremely helpful and generous with your time and skills. Offer your help when ever possible to potential mentors. (In fact, being helpful to anyone is a great way to ensure good things will come in your career.)
If there is someone you admire and you have not yet met, show up where they are and be helpful. Is it an author - show up at their book signing, offer to help in some way. Is it a speaker - email them and ask if you can volunteer your time to help make the event run smoother. A business owner - perhaps you can refer quality leads or customers to their business.
Whatever the field, who ever the person, find ways to genuinely be helpful and present. Do this consistently before asking for anything in return and you will have laid a great foundation to a potential mentor-mentee relationship.
3 - Ask if you can ask.
After you have gotten to know them by being helpful ask if they have time to answer a couple questions or if they wouldn’t mind joining you for coffee sometime. If the prospective mentor likes you they will usually be open to this and that’s a great start!
Now show up for coffee and be gracious and considerate of their time. Go ahead and ask a few questions, tell them some of the things you are working on and get to know a little more about their history. Just don’t over do it! If they agreed to a 20 minute cup of coffee, then that is all you should expect. Be cognizant of their time and don’t over step.
Can’t get your super busy, super amazing dream mentor out for coffee - then just simply ask if you can ask them a question. One question. Make it good, ask your question and let that be it for now.
4 - Follow up and express gratitude.
Be sure to briefly follow up and let your prospective mentor know how their advice impacted you, or how you used the info they shared to solve a problem at work or made a big decision. Letting them know that you gained tremendous value from that time they spent with you, or simply that one question you were able to ask, is a solid way to up your odds of continuing the relationship.
5 - Repeat!
Continue to be extremely helpful, continue to periodically ask for time to chat, continue to follow up and express gratitude. Then do it all over again and then again and again. If you keep at this for a period of time, guess what...you have a mentor.
I would love to know what your experience with mentorship has been so far. Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!