There is a well-used quote that pretty much sums up the power of mentoring. “If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.” You may hear repeatedly that gaining a mentor can accelerate your career success; from having a champion that can support you, to someone who is who you want to be in the future.
So that we are clear about what you are looking for, let’s clarify mentoring. A mentor will share their guidance and experience to help you develop personally and professionally. They may be further along than you in life experience or have more work experience; they may be someone whose outlook on life you admire. Like a coach, they will hold you accountable for your progress and challenge and question but the tools and techniques they use may be different to a coaching model. Mentoring is a must have for everyone. Think of a successful person, and I can guarantee that they have had a mentor at some point.
Their mentors may have been a champion, an encourager, a challenger or a teacher; they may have had a formal relationship or met informally. Either way, the number one reason it worked, is because the mentee knows what they want to get out of the relationship.
Do you need a mentor?
To work out if you need a mentor (and then to help you approach someone) start with the end in mind. What do you want to get out of working with a mentor? Is it a career change, career development, personal development or business? I have worked with a couple of mentors, as an employee and when I was starting my business, and I was clear on what I wanted to work on and how I could measure my progress. Yes, sometimes the meetings were more of a sounding board rather than strategy, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted the result to be.
Who could mentor you?
In theory, anyone can mentor you. Once you have an idea about what you want to develop through mentoring, have a think about where this person hangs out. It could be a person you have met through work, or training, or even in your wider network. You may have a person in mind that once worked with, who has now moved on. It may be someone that has been a client, a supplier, a trainer … you get the drift.
This person doesn’t have to have done what you want to do (although that may be useful), you may admire their confidence, their resilience, their creativity; really think outside the box on the results you want. Sometimes a new view on things can really help.
Where can you find a mentor?
You may already have a mentor on your work door-step. Many organisations have mentoring programmes that staff can tap into, sometimes called peer-mentoring, so, the first port of call is your Manager to ask about potential internal mentoring. If they don’t have it, maybe it’s one for the suggestion box?
If you are part of any professional organisations, you may find there are mentoring options within their support packages. Whilst traditionally mentors are a voluntary, unpaid role, there are some people that will offer paid mentoring; especially in a business or skills setting. So, keep your options open; consider this as an investment in your future.
How to approach a mentor
If you are going it alone, so not through a formal mentoring programme, the best way is to reach out to the individual directly. Firstly, if you haven’t met them, connect via social media and build an online relationship to see how they work and if they are the right person for you. When you are ready, reach out and email them. Look at this email as a pitch; this article from The Muse offers a great structure to this email. You may find they are happy to answer your email or have that call/ cup of coffee. You may find that they don’t have the capacity – but if you don’t ask you, don’t get.
What if you can’t find a mentor?
Don’t give up. Keep following the people you admire from afar and learn what you can. My number one advice is to consume their information! This may be through books, videos, conferences, blogs or Facebook groups; but carry on learning. Whilst you are waiting for the right mentor to cross your path, you can apply the lessons they share.
Have you had any successes with Mentors? Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox and share what works for you!
Clara Wilcox is a straight talking, practical and experienced coach helping clients navigate the tricky waters of returning to work, career changes and professional development. The Balance Collective is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of parents, by working together to build inner confidence and promote a healthy work/life balance. Don’t you deserve a career you enjoy, not endure?