How to find a mentor? And who says they’re a mentor anyway!
Before rushing off to find a mentor answer this...
"What do I want from a mentor?"
To determine this, you should write a list. You could probably do with some advice…from a mentor! This illustrates how we can get over-focused on defining relationships. To gain advice to work out what you need from a mentor - does not mean that the person who gives you the advice has to agree to be your mentor. It just means you need to be clear about what you want from them. Find someone you get on well with and respect. Anyone from your line manager, a senior individual, a family member, someone in your professional body or a friend. Ask one for advice. Or ask them all. Who knows, this could lead to one of them becoming a long-term mentor for you.Examples of what you might want from your mentor are wide and varied. For instance, how to manage your appraisal process, how to determine what experience you need for promotion, what career is right for you, how to deal with stressful situations or how do to get an overseas assignment? The possibilities are endless.
Who would be a good mentor for me?
Avoid looking for someone like you–you want support from people with different skills, views and attitudes to help you think differently and grow. Diversity wins.
When you know what you want from a mentor, you will begin to get an idea of the type of person you want. You may want someone from inside your business function, however, it is not unusual that your mentor might be external to your function, outside your organisation or even outside your sector. Do they have the experience to give you the support you seek? This can easily result in seeking lots of mentors with different experiences and perspectives. There is great merit in this. It builds your support network.
You may not have a relationship with the people you seek as mentors. So get introduced to them. This could be through a connection such as your line manager or HR, or by gaining visibility in front of these people. This might include volunteering to work on specific projects or asking to present on behalf of a team you work in. This takes time and investment.
Some things to watch out for:
- It’s about the person, not the mentor’s position. The effectiveness of a mentor is not a function of their seniority.
- Your mentor may find you (not the other way around). People rarely declare ‘I am your mentor’. The label can feel weird to some people. So do not put a label on it. Just agree what you would like from someone.
- And…don’t always expect a relationship - mentors come in all different forms.