What is a Mentor?
You probably have a picture of what a mentor is in your head; maybe a teacher, or someone older who guides in life decisions that affect career outcomes. That is not wrong. But a mentorship is much more flexible than a teacher-student relationship.
Formally, mentorship is an exchange of guidance and experience between two or more people, with an end achievement of attaining a pre-defined goal.
Mentors are not limited to career development – they can be someone you turn to for spiritual, life, or relationship advice. However, you should have a specific goal in mind when searching for a mentor. They can advise in more than one area, but they are not your one-stop shop for all of life’s questions. And you can have multiple mentors!
How do I find A Mentor?
Colleges & Universities:
Finding a mentor can be difficult, but luckily there are many platforms to help connect experienced mentors and seeking mentees. I met my first mentor through my university’s women-to-women mentor program, which was designed to connect current female students with past female graduates; mentors and mentees signed-up and provided descriptions of what they were looking for, and then were paired up based on their descriptions.
We are in the Atlanta area and it has a great platform to connect mentors-mentees: Product 404. It’s likely that similar communities exist where you are. The key to remember when using these platforms is to be very specific in what you are looking for. In my case, I was looking to connect with other women in the product technology space to help guide me as I develop and pursue career advancement. Perhaps you are looking for someone who is in a career you want to transition towards and need help with resume building or how to network into project management groups. The list is endless of what you are able to gain, but you need to be very clear about the type of mentor you are looking for so that you are paired with someone who is right for you.
Your Current Employer:
Another great place to search for a mentor is within the company you are already working for. While working at a credit union, I sought out the project manager and informed her that I wanted to learn from her. I told her I was willing to take on extra work to assist her and further skills to help my future transition. She took me under her wing as a mentee and gave me experiences that I needed to land a Business Analyst role that I would not have had otherwise.
If you are not finding a mentor who exactly fits your needs through these avenues, you can always go to LinkedIn and search for people who have the jobs you are looking to get into. The best people to reach out to on LinkedIn would be ones who you share a connection with; you can have your intermediary connection introduce you to the person you want to connect with.
Mentorship: Getting it Right
Effectively executing a mentorship includes a balance of preparation, establishing a timeline, and applying that relationship in your own life in an evident way via check-ins, meetings or exercises.
Ensure the Right Fit:
Start with a one-time introductory meeting. Based on that informal meeting, you can see if the person is interested in continuing to meet with you – and it’s a chance for you to see if they would be a good fit for you.
It’s important to show up to meetings prepared with questions about career aspirations, personal goals, and targeted areas for growth. Preparation is a time to discuss guidance on addressing challenges, motivation, as well as anything that the mentee hopes to get out of the relationship. This is also a great time to share details about any past mentorships that may not have been successful, and why. For example, perhaps there was a lack of consistent communication, or the timeline was too short, etc.
Establish a Timeline:
A timeline allows mentors and mentees to monitor important metrics such as achievements, progress, and improvements, while also focusing on significant objectives. Outlining the process of a mentorship can also let both parties adjust on an as-needed basis. This allows mentors and mentees to both know the necessary time and effort commitment.
Now that you’ve learned about the value of mentorship and how to effectively seek out and utilize it in your own life, you’re all set to begin the process on your own! If you’re getting started with a mentorship, the mentor should be the first one to initiate contact and schedule a first meeting. Together you can discuss timeline, desired contact, meeting frequency, and confidentiality. Most of all, be open and flexible with one another!