In a previous post we talked about the value of a mentor. Now that you know why having a mentor, or mentors, is important, let’s discuss how to get one.
It seems like it should be easy to secure a mentor, and sometimes it is. But you run into challenges in identifying who the right person is to fit with your personality and career objectives. These seven easy steps will help you in identifying and securing a mentor:
- Write down a list of your personality traits and career goals. What are you like? How do you behave in certain situations, both in and out of work? What is your ideal career path? Writing down these traits and goals will help you specify what areas a mentor will help you with. It will also allow you to align yourself with a mentor that has the tools to assist you. This step is critical to starting an effective mentoring relationship - you must identify what you are looking for in a mentor before you identify the right one
- Reach out to your network and ask for a mentor referral. Ask your manager, a colleague, or a friend for an introduction. If you feel comfortable sharing, tell the person you ask for an intro the personality traits and career goals so they can better align their referral with what you are looking for in a mentor. I suggest a pool of three people as potential mentors
- Set up a 30 minute intro meeting. It is important to get some face time prior to securing a mentor. On paper, you may be the perfect match, but if your personalities do not work together it is clearly not going to be a good mentoring relationship. Make sure this meeting is in person, if at all possible. In the meeting subject, I suggest calling out directly that you are seeking a mentor and want to use this time to gauge if there is a connection. It is important to be up front about your objective so expectations are level-set between both parties. If you don’t feel comfortable about putting this in the meeting invite, mention it at the meeting
- Prepare for the intro meeting. Write down a series of questions you want to have the potential mentor address
- Meet with your mentor(s). You’ve already done the preparation work, so just be yourself and have the conversation
- Review all potential mentors, post intro meetings, and decide which one(s) will be your mentor(s). Don’t rule out someone just because you have differing opinions or backgrounds - they could be just the right mentor to push you further or give you another perspective. It is not a rule for you to have one and only one mentor. If you think highly of multiple people and want them to be your mentor, that is perfectly OK
- Ask your potential mentor to be your mentor. This is important because it, as mentioned earlier, will ensure you are on the same page. The mentor understands what their objective is in the relationship and so do you as the mentee. Once the mentor accepts your invite, set up regular meetings with them!
This, of course, outlines how to get a mentor in a formal manner. Informal mentorships will form organically. As an employee new to a company, it is highly recommended to get a mentor early because the mentor will be able to help you navigate the company early, accelerating your development and learning curve. If you follow these steps to getting a mentor, you will have an expanded network and a resource in your court to guide you in your young career.
Comparison to Undergrad
As an undergrad, you are largely set up in a position where mentors are organically available. The RA in the dorms, a TA in class, or a Big Brother/Sister in a fraternity/sorority are all natural mentorship opportunities. This makes it easy. For a lot of these natural mentorship opportunities there are no formalized titles in the relationship, which is OK. The important part is the availability and willingness of the mentor to help you and serve as a resource.
- Who has served as a mentor for you as an undergrad?
- Who will be the first resource you leverage in Corporate America to gain an intro to a potential mentor?