You know that partnering with a mentor at work can give you access to a valuable sounding board. You’ll be treated to professional advice from someone more, or differently, experienced than you. That probably sounds appealing. But first, you need practical advice about how to find the work mentor that is right for you. This article will help.
As this series has already discussed, there are many advantages of work mentorship. Both the mentor and the mentee can benefit. Mentor programs:
- Develop employees
- Improve employee satisfaction
- Support retention
- Instill culture
- Bolster diversity
- Drive revenue
Yet your organization may not yet have a mentoring program in place. That doesn’t mean you can’t find yourself a mentor. After all, Wendy Murphy, author of Strategic Relationships at Work, cites research noting “people with mentors get promoted faster, earn a higher salary, and are more satisfied with their careers.”
Motivated to build a relationship with someone who can listen, discuss and help develop your career, and serve as a professional role model? Take the following tips into consideration when looking for a mentor at work.
1. Have reasonable expectations
Just because you have a vision of a productive and meaningful relationship with another professional, not everyone will share your perspective. Yes, being a mentor can positively impact the individual who agrees to work with you. Yet, they may not see that up front. After all, being a mentor takes time and effort. So, don’t give up if you can’t immediately identify an appropriate mentor.
Look for an individual who can guide and encourage you. Typically you’ll pick someone a step or two ahead of you professionally who can help you navigate challenging situations and encourage you to take risks. The mentor doesn’t have to be in your direct field. It can often be valuable to pick someone with a varied skillset. You’ll get a fresh perspective that way.
2. Know what kind of mentoring you want
In approaching a mentor, you’ll want to know what kind of mentoring you want. Many people think of mentoring as a long-term, one-on-one relationship. This is a good model. But it isn’t the only one. Perhaps you want to try group mentoring or are looking to work with a peer.
Or perhaps you’re more interested in a short-term mentoring relationship. This might work if you’ve identified a specific skill you want to address. You could identify an expert and work with them just a few times to learn more and develop yourself in this area.
3. Set clear goals
Knowing your goals from the outset can help you select the right mentor. If you are looking for help transitioning into a new role, find someone who knows that role. If you want to be more assertive at work, select a mentor who you admire for their confidence.
Before approaching a mentor reflect on your strengths and areas of opportunity. Determine your priority focus area. Don’t expect a mentor to be enthusiastic about agreeing to partner with you if you have a long laundry list of “priorities” you want to work out. Instead, you might think of mentoring with multiple people to meet your varied objectives.
4. Seek a different point of view
Mentoring will be more beneficial (to both parties) if you look for someone with a fresh perspective. “If you are really going to push yourself and grow, you need a mentor who is different from you, who can give you a different point of view,” Kathy Patterson the Chief Human Resources Officer at Ally Financial in Detroit told The Muse.
5. Start small
You may be excited about the prospect and ready to email or call your potential mentor with a request to be their mentee. Still, you’re more likely to be successful in asking someone to be your mentor if you build a relationship first. Start out asking for an informational interview or inviting the person for a casual conversation over coffee.
If you have a shared contact, you might ask that individual to make an introduction. Or you might leverage a common college or belonging to a professional organization together to make that first contact.
6. Find someone you can be open with
The preliminary meet and greet or casual conversation can help you decide whether this is someone you with whom you can be honest. The mentorship won’t be as successful if you are reluctant to share details about yourself and your work.
You’ll want to weigh whether your communication styles will mesh too. For example, if you are someone who gets anxious when you don’t get an immediate response to a question, you probably don’t want to work with someone who takes two weeks to answer your original request for a meeting.
7. Take charge of the logistics
You are asking a favor of your mentor at work. So, do what you can to make the process easier for them. You should be the one to manage your schedule. Agree up front whether you will meet in person, by phone, or virtually. Establish a framework for how often you will meet and for how long.
You might also consider sending the mentor a heads-up before any meeting telling them what you want to discuss. Providing a short agenda or questions they can think about in advance can help make better use of the time together.
8. Nurture the relationship
Beyond getting to know the person to find out if they will fit as a mentor, you need to also nurture the relationship with the mentor. Demonstrate that you are listening and value their feedback. Find ways to show your gratitude for their time and effort with you. This can include:
- Buying their coffee if you meet out
- Sending a thank you note
- Giving updates catching them up on changes, progress you attribute to the mentoring sessions
- Offering to help your mentor if you can
Make the mentoring relationship a success
Research has found 76% of people say mentors are important. Yet only 37% have one. Finding a work mentor is going to take effort on your part. But if you take these tips into consideration, you can take some of the pressure off the process.
Next in this series we’ll share advice for mentors on how they can have the most positive impact on mentees. Keep an eye out also for an article discussing the difference between coaching and mentoring.