How to Find a Mentor Who Will Boost Your Career Success
“Every person is a new door to a different world.” – Unknown
It seems that everyone has a mentor these days. There’s a good reason why mentoring has become a popular strategy for career acceleration – the benefits of mentoring are endless! Mentors have the ability to guide you through important business decisions, impart career advice and introduce you to new networks and senior decision-makers in your industry.
Finding a mentor who will boost your career success can be a daunting task but by asking the right questions, we can simplify the process. A successful mentor relationship is a case of finding the right person. It’s also about ensuring equal commitment from both people. Ask yourself these questions to help you find the ideal mentor and ensure you get the most from this enriching professional relationship.
What can I give to a mentor?
Before asking what you can get from a mentor, start thinking about what you have to give.
Professor Polly Parker, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics & Law and Peer Coach at the University of Queensland says in a September 2020 Mentoring for Career Success webinar, “The best way to get something from a relationship is to think about what you’re giving to it. What is your contribution? How are you adding value? The more you think about adding value, the more likely it is that you’ll get something back.”
Think about how much time you’re willing to commit as a mentee, both inside and outside of mentoring sessions. What ideas and energy can you bring? What actions are you prepared to take in your career that will help inform your sessions?
Consider also the relationship mechanics. Would you like an ongoing mentoring arrangement or a one-off session? Are you hoping for a pro-bono agreement or will you offer payment in exchange for the mentor’s service? Payment in coffee or lunches is often perfectly fine!
What do I want to gain from a mentor?
It’s tricky to find the perfect mentor without getting clear on your objectives first. A mentor provides strategic advice, not magic spells. So you’ll want to map out in a notebook your own career goals and the challenges to reaching them. Then you can set clear expectations on how having an experienced mentor or coach can help you achieve your goals. If your notebook is light on concrete goals because you’re in a place of career transition, that’s perfectly ok! You’ll just need to find a great mentor or coach who can help you define some new goals to work towards.
How do I find a mentor?
A big concern of people seeking mentors is ‘who should I ask?’ There are a few answers to this question. When thinking about finding a mentor, people often imagine the daunting moment of firing off a cold email (or LinkedIn message) only to receive a “no” or worse, radio silence. Cold emailing a prospective mentor is certainly available but remember that professionals in leadership roles are in hot demand as mentors, so you’ll need to become comfortable with being turned down a few times until you hear that golden “yes”.
Here are our two golden tips:
- Start within your own community. Look inside your existing network for a person to approach who inspires or challenges you. Ideally, this person is someone you’re already acquainted with, such as a previous manager, a boss or a friend who is further along in their career or business. If you know of someone who’d make a perfect mentor but you’re not already acquainted, look for a mutual connection, like a friend or colleague, who could introduce you. LinkedIn will be your number one tool here!
- Join a mentoring group. If your network is small and you don’t have helpful professional connections, then you’re perfectly positioned to join a group. This can be a formal mentoring program or a community that provides on-demand mentoring. Having a community of professionals and peers around you who can support your career and professional development opens up pathways and relationships you might never have found otherwise. Being among like-minded peers also makes a huge difference to your sense of belonging and confidence to take on new challenges and launch your ideas.
If you don't already have a strong network around you, check out the She Mentors membership. We’re a diverse community of coaches, leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs who can help you navigate the different stages of your career or business. Each person in our membership gives back 1 hour each month, which means we are all committed to helping each other succeed.
When it comes to identifying a potential mentor match, it can be tempting to seek someone from within your own industry. After all, who better to provide advice on professional development relating to your chosen field than from someone within that world? But keep in mind that a mentor doesn’t need to be in your industry to ‘get’ where you’re coming from. In fact, getting an outsider’s fresh point-of-view might help solve that pesky problem you’ve already looked at from all angles, or answer questions you’d never think to ask.
The key to finding your perfect mentor is simply a matter of being brave enough to ask! One of the biggest insights you’ll gain from this experience is the secret power of asking for help. Making your objectives clear and offering a genuine connection will make it easier for the mentor to respond positively to you. People are really happy to help as long as they know what’s expected of them, and as long as they feel confident that they can help you.
A mentoring relationship can be transformative to your career or business journey, but also to your life. In mentoring, you’ll discover numerous rewarding opportunities and supportive connections that last a lifetime.