18 Dec Will You Be My Mentor?
‘Tis the season of giving…and giving back. One of my favorite ways to give back in business is through mentorship. Not only does it feel inspiring to help others, but it is a learning and development opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee. Over and over, you will hear that the mentors get as much out of these relationships as the mentee. So, how do you find a mentor? And once you find one, then what do you do to maximize the relationship?
FINDING MY MENTOR(S)
Some say it seems more difficult for women to find mentors and sponsors, but it really can be tricky for anyone. I’ve found that the strongest “mentoring” relationships are simply based on real and reciprocal relationships.
The naturally formed and long-lasting relationships with former managers, partners, and co-workers have been the cornerstone for me. These people are all mentors though they may not have the formal title. In my career, they have served as sounding boards– whether it’s getting an objective opinion about how to handle a political situation, a difficult leadership problem, or even starting my own business. There are a variety of people that I’ve turned to for advice. And a mentor is exactly that. It’s someone who has experience and talent that you would benefit from. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all mentor – different people can serve different career needs. And just like there isn’t a cookie cutter mentor, mentors don’t need to be senior level VIP’s, they just need to be people whose expertise, experience and advice you respect and trust. I often canvas a wide group to get advice, then mull over their respective opinions to form my own. There’s “give and take” in these relationships. A few months ago, I was approached by someone I consider a mentor to me. He wanted my opinion regarding consulting and going out on his own. It was awesome to be able to provide insight to someone who has provided so much guidance to me.
If you are just starting your career or just looking for a good mentor or two as you grow and develop, here are a few thoughts on how to find them.
- WORK – At the Office: Look within your own organization, particularly for those individuals who are in different disciplines. These people can often provide the most objective advice since they’re removed from your function. Some of the best career guidance I’ve gotten as a marketing person was from a senior level person in IT.
- HOME – Family and Friends: Find mentors in unexpected places, like family and friends where you may already have relationships that you haven’t thought to leverage. These people are more than happy to help you and share their wisdom.
- EVENTS – Network: Attend alumni or professional events and see if there are natural relationships to be developed. Networking is a great way to explore a variety of people who you may “click” with. Finding a mentor through networking may take some time and planning, but you can make it a goal. For help networking, see our November Blog here.
- LOOK FOR – I Wannabe You: Target someone with traits or talents you would like to emulate. It doesn’t have to be your specific job. You might want to learn from a mentor who is a brilliant communicator or who does an amazing job managing people. Think about what kind of leader you want to be and find people with those attributes to help mentor you.
Now that you have identified a mentor, how do you go about getting their advice and building a meaningful relationship?
MAKING THE MOST OF MY MENTOR(S)
I have found most of the best practices to be about two things. First, it is about communication, and second, it is about committing to the process and what you want to get out of it. As the mentee, you need to take responsibility for driving the relationship. Here are 4 great ways for you as the mentee to take charge!
- FIRST, Ask for What You Want – Whether it is “will you be my mentor?” or would you be willing to give me some advice on “x” …you simply have to ask. You might be surprised how open people will be (and often flattered). If you are asking them to be your mentor and you don’t know them well, put some thought into what you need from them. What are you really asking for? For example, you might need an hour of their time once a month where you share challenges and get their perspective. This makes it easy for a potential mentor to say, “yes, I can do that”. Help them help you.
- SECOND, Have and Share Goals – Make sure you know what you want to get from the relationship and don’t be shy about sharing that in your very first meeting. You might say something like, “what I appreciate about you is…”, “so I hope that when we are together, I can get your thoughts on…or I can learn…”. This not only helps the mentor understand your expectations, but it is also likely to have them thinking about you when you are not around, so they are ready to share relevant information and insight with you.
- THIRD, Reinforce the Value – It’s a good best practice to let the mentor know that they are helpful and that their time is and has been valuable to you. You can certainly do that by simply telling them, but it has a lot more impact if you can do this through examples. “I took your advice on x and here is what happened.” Reinforcing you are listening, taking action and looking at results is the most meaningful way to tell them their advice is valuable.
- LAST BUT NOT LEAST, Show You Care – Get the basics right. These relationships are important, and these people are spending precious time with you. Don’t be late or cancel meetings. You may want to debate an issue with a mentor, which can be great, but you don’t want to argue with their perspective. If you don’t agree, that is okay, but it should never lessen their perspective. And, of course, always say thank you and be gracious.
At The Marketing Posse, we know how important talent development is, which is why we provide strategic guidance and mentorship to enhance and optimize your marketing team. We offer:
- One-to-one or small group mentoring sessions to provide leadership relative to real-time issues and initiatives.
- Team building for your talented and motivated individuals through customized development programs.
- Development and facilitation of training workshops on branding, marketing, leadership, etc. based on the needs of your group.
Contact me to continue the conversation.