In today’s business, a combination of soft and hard skills is critical to successfully manage this complex and changing landscape. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through a mentor; a person who has more experience and can help you navigate more successfully.
People who I know who have a mentor find that receiving this guidance and advice allows them to take on career opportunities that they otherwise may not have. I see confidence soar and goals find clarity. And for an organization, successful mentoring means being able to harness talent more effectively and translate that into deeper employee engagement. People stay longer and contribute more.
The value of having a mentor
- Encouragement – A mentor will encourage you when you are feeling low and reassure you that everything is going as it should be because they have been there before
- Reduce mistakes – A mentor will help you prevent mistakes that you otherwise would have no way of avoiding. There are only two ways to gain wisdom in life: making your own mistakes, or learning from other’s mistakes
- Eliminate weaknesses – A mentor will help you remove your weaknesses and prune off some of the things holding you back. This means you must be open and receptive to feedback even if it may be hard to hear
- Bring out your strengths – A good mentor will help bring out the best in you when you don’t necessarily see the qualities you possess
- Honesty – A mentor will tell you the truth because their primary objective is to make sure you are successful
What a mentor is not
- A mentor is not a Fairy God Mother/Father – The most important role of a mentor is to listen, ask questions, and provide thoughtful alternatives to consider. You should view your mentor as an advisor, more than anything, one who is willing to be generous with his or her time and efforts but who still deserves your appreciation and respect
- A mentor is not a mind reader – Your mentor can’t solve problems you don’t share or give advice you don’t ask for. You need to be clear about communicating your goals and your needs
- A mentor is not (just) a friend – Mentoring relationships often develop into friendship, but if your mentor has gone to the trouble of setting aside specific “mentoring” time, try to be respectful of that time and make the most of it
- A mentor is not going to find you – Even the most enthusiastic mentors probably aren’t going to seek you out or ask permission to mentor you. You need to do the legwork here
Follow these steps to find a mentor who can support you by providing the insights and assistance you need.
Reflect on whether mentorship is a good fit for you
- Consider your attributes and whether you would be a good mentee. Are you respectful and willing to work hard? Will you be flexible and open to feedback and criticism?
- Ask yourself whether you would be someone you would like to mentor. If not, why?
- In order to succeed in a mentor-mentee relationship, you must be actively building your skills and looking to advance in your career
Identify your mentorship needs
- Take time to outline the goals you have set for your own professional growth and think about what it would take to achieve those goals. This is a good starting point for your conversations with your mentor. Clarifying your goals will also help you to select someone who can help you achieve those goals
Select people to ask for mentorship
- When contemplating people in your life who may be a good candidate for a mentor, think about the individuals who are a few steps ahead of you in their careers or professional growth
- Another way to identify potential mentors is to seek out those who have the position you wish to develop into in the future
How to ask someone to be your mentor
Be mindful that being a mentor is a considerable responsibility. Before you ask someone to be your mentor, you want to be sure you’re asking the right person so do your research. If you feel confident that the individual you’re planning to ask would have a vested interest in your success, as well as have the time to invest in your growth, the next step is asking them to enter into a mentoring relationship with you.
- Schedule a meeting – If possible, try to meet with your potential mentor in person or via technology rather than asking over email
- Explain why you are seeking mentorship – By explaining what you hope to gain from mentorship and offer as a mentee (e.g. you are eager to learn, work hard, and be open to feedback), they can properly assess whether the relationship would be a good fit for them. The more clearly your potential mentor understands your needs and expectations, the better. Use good notes and be succinct in your request
- Explain why you selected them – When you can make a clear case for what you want from a mentor relationship and why you are asking this individual to become your mentor, you are more likely to receive a positive response. Let the person know how much you value their expertise
If your potential mentor seems uncomfortable or skeptical, it’s best to step back and keep looking. Don’t take this rejection personally. Even if they want to, they might simply not have the time or capacity to offer you effective mentorship at this time.
If you don’t currently have one, consider how mentoring could increase your job skills, adaptability, salary and self-worth. In addition, you’ll realize the unexpected benefits of mentoring and how you’ll feel happier – both at work and in your personal life. A good mentor will help you gain self-awareness, respect your colleagues more, and become a better team player. In short, a mentor can help build your character and your career success.
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