As you grow along with your career, you will meet people and partners that will help you gain the experience, skill, and knowledge you need to be proficient and excellent in your field. However, to be successful, you need to have someone who can offer wisdom, guidance, and a great deal of knowledge and experience; that someone is a mentor.
We all know the importance of finding the ideal mentor. It takes years to accumulate wisdom, let alone acquire the knowledge and experience required to truly be able to help others. If you haven't found a mentor yet and struggles with where to start looking, or if you know a friend who has been looking for mentors without success, this guide is intended to help you start your search for an ideal mentor.
What Is Mentoring?
Mentoring is a way of helping someone pursue a career or project, usually under the guidance of an experienced person. The person helping you will be called a mentor. A mentor can be anybody from a family member to a coworker.
The purpose of mentoring is to help you get better at whatever it is you're interested in. They help you in different ways such as offering advice, tips, and criticism, for you to excel at what you’re currently passionate about. Getting a mentor doesn’t require you to have a job; even if it’s just what you’re passionate about or interested in, you can have mentors to guide and help you succeed in that field.
Tips For Finding The Ideal Mentor
The right mentoring relationship can be a tool to boost your professional and personal growth. It can lead you right into a new job, promotion, or even your work-life balance dream.
Here are some tips to get you the mentor you need in your career.
Know Your Goals, Short & Long-term
- What’s your goal in the next 3 years? What can you accomplish currently with your role & responsibilities? Do you want to become a leader and a manager? The more specific you are with your questions, the easier it will be for you to find the right mentor
One strategy to create effective, easily achievable goals is to work SMART:
Envisioning your goals in this method will help you break down ideas and dreams into realistic and achievable results that your mentor can help you achieve.
“Create” & Visualize Your Mentor
- Ask yourself questions such as “Who are you looking up to?” “Who’s your role model in your field?” “Whose job would you like to mimic in the next few years?” These questions will help you create your mentor in your head, making your search narrower as you now have a preferred mentor that you would want.
Make The Ask
- Since you already have your goals prepared and your preferred mentor pictured in your mind, it’s time to make a pitch for your first meeting with your mentor.
Making sure that your pitch about why you need a mentor and how it matches your long and short-term goals is the key to getting a mentor. He/she should have an idea of what your plans and goals are for your career and your personal life so that they are able to adjust their mentoring styles and what lessons and advice they can offer.
Reach Out To Potential Mentors
- Reaching out may look easy, but it’s a different case when looking for a mentoring relationship. Usually, a direct approach from you may not be the greatest way to reach out to a potential mentor. Being introduced by someone else, a colleague, or your manager, can be beneficial as they have more authority and experience, making your introduction more impactful.
When it comes to approaches and building rapport, direct conversations are mostly ineffective as there are no foundations being built between the mentee and mentor.
The best approach in building a relationship with your mentor is an organic and steady conversation over time. A simple meeting in a coffee shop or a walk around the park would be a great start for the relationship.
Become The Right Mentee
- A mentoring relationship is a two-way street; it requires coordination between the mentee and mentor to have fruitful & insightful discussions that will help flourish and grow the career of the mentee.
If you’re the mentee, you should take the initiative to set up consistent meetings with your mentor. This is important as to not stay off track of your goals and learnings that you talk about with your mentor. This can be done through calls, emails, and messages to help your mentor to stay on track with your progress.
Moreover, during your meetings with your mentor, it’s important that you have an open mind on what they’ll be saying. Accepting criticism and feedback is one way to learn and improve your career. One way to get this done is to take down notes. It’s a great way to remember what your mentor says so that you are able to practice and master it.
Finally, it’s important that you show gratitude to your mentor. They also have their own personal lives, responsibilities, and jobs, so it’s only proper to show the gratitude they deserve. Show it through small actions such as treating them for a meal or giving them a personal letter. These actions can create a more relaxing and strong foundation for the mentoring relationship.
Establish A Board Of Mentors
- One mentor can’t help you in the different aspects of your career. One mentor can help improve your character, while another can focus on your technical skills for a job change.
There is no limit to how many mentors you can get for your career. As you grow and become a more experienced individual, your skills and needs will change as well; it’s important to find the right mentors as you continue along in your career.
Even if the mentoring relationship has already ended, your previous mentors can still help you with your concerns and questions about your growth and career.
5 Common Misconceptions Towards Mentoring
Either you’re a mentee or mentor, the entire mentoring relationship can be filled or seen with misconceptions and myths. Here are some of them that need to be addressed.
The best mentors are the ones who earn more than you do
- While it’s convenient for us to pick our mentors on the basis of their pay grade, that should not be the case. Your mentor can be anyone that you think will fit what you need from them. It can be a more junior level compared to you, offering ground-level tips & advice. It can also be your boss, making communication and proximity much easier.
A mentor can be anyone that can share their wisdom and experience for your career and growth.
Your first mentor will be the only and last mentor you will have.
- As mentioned earlier, you can have as many mentors as you can to help you. Undeniably, you will outgrow your previous self, making you a better professional and person. Consequently, you will also outgrow your mentor, making their lessons less relevant to what you currently need.
It’s expected that you will have more than one mentor in your lifetime. One mentor can’t teach you all of the things you need as you grow and mature.
The mentor chooses the mentee
- The one who decides to get what they need to know is the person who is looking for knowledge, experience, and skills--and it is the mentee.
As the mentee, you have control over who will be your mentor; as you know what your goals are and what your needs are. It’s also often that the mentee reaches out to a mentor, as the initiative makes you more engaged and committed.
Mentoring benefits the mentee ONLY
- A mentoring relationship is mutually beneficial for both parties. A mentee may receive the bulk of the information given by the mentor, but the relationship also serves as a learning experience for the mentor. Learning applies to everyone and is shared by everyone involved, and a mentoring relationship isn’t excluded.
Mentoring should be treated as a formal construct
- A common misconception of mentoring is that it’s usually portrayed as a “teaching” lesson for the mentee. That might not be the case. Mentoring is guiding. It’s about imparting knowledge, experience, and wisdom to someone who needs it so that they can understand how their current situation works and how they can improve it. The return on investment might be invisible, but it’s a different result for a coaching and guiding environment. It might be the reward of seeing the mentee be successful in his field, or the mentor gaining new learnings and insights on teaching the mentee.
The main point and goal of a mentoring relationship should be focused on guiding and helping the mentee to become more proficient in what he needs to do.
A mentoring relationship is a great first step for anyone who needs guidance, knowledge, and expertise to excel at their job or situation. Receiving bulks of information to grow your career or your personal life will always be useful and beneficial for anyone. It also applies to the mentor as they also learn in the process of teaching their mentees.
Mentoring is a causal relationship that helps the mentee be ready for whatever obstacle that might come in their career. After each mentoring relationship, you will be walking away with the experience and wisdom you need to overcome those obstacles.