In my last post, I highlighted the benefits of having a mentor and in this post, I will be sharing some tips for finding and approaching someone to be your mentor. Over the years, I've had a number of mentors who have contributed to my career progression and also helped to shape my professional character. As a result of a number of conversations and advice shared, I was able to learn about building credibility, resilience and emotional intelligence. If you're at a point in your life where you need guidance about your next steps, now might be the time to get yourself a mentor! Ok, so first things first, with this being a Christian blog I feel like I need to caveat everything with the need to pray before taking any action. Whatever the situation is, even in secular career guidance, God's direction will always be unmatched. Ok, let's get into this.
Very often, mentor/mentee relationships can exist informally without the need to label the relationship as a mentoring one. I have come across a number of people over the years who have mentored me in some capacity (advice giving, encouragement, being a sounding board) without the relationship ever being labeled as a mentor/mentee one. It's not always essential to have this relationship formally defined but there are benefits to having the understanding from both parties about the nature of the relationship. In some of these cases, the person who plays the role of mentor often occupies another position in the life of the person so the relationship is usually characterised based on the nature of that relationship. Others who prefer to have a specific person dedicated solely to the role of mentor will often take intentional steps to have this person in their lives. Here a number of things to consider when seeking a mentor:
Define your goal: without a specific (or even general) goal in mind, you run the risk of turning to the wrong person for advice. Having a goal means that your conversations have focus and will help you to achieve those goals.
Assess your current network: is there anyone in your network who has achieved the goals you are pursuing? Such people make for great mentors as you can learn from the path they took and maybe even avoid the same mistakes they might have made. If you do not have anyone in your network, think outside your immediate circle and consider those in your network who might be able to recommend someone they know.
Make contact: if the person you think would make a good match for you isn't someone you already know, you'll need to think about how you approach them. A mentoring relationship requires a time commitment to ensure you receive the maximum benefits. Not everyone is able to make this commitment so be prepared for a potential mentor to decline for this and other reasons.
Define the relationship: if you're really formal and prefer this approach, there are contracts available that help in defining the boundaries of this type of relationship. If both parties agree to an informal approach, that would work fine too. Most of my mentoring relationships have been informal and I've preferred this approach. Whatever your approach is, make sure there is agreement from both parties.
Once you've followed the steps above, you're free to go forth and prosper! A mentor is a great way to hold yourself accountable and learn from the experiences of others. I'm a huge advocate for mentoring and recommend everyone have at least one mentor they can call on. It makes a world of difference!