Finding a mentor can have a profound, positive impact on your career development and well-being at work. Yet many people feel daunted by the process of finding a mentor. That's where Guider is here to help.
We’re constantly being told by TED Talks, life coaches, career advice blogs and entrepreneurs to find a mentor.
Mentoring has received celebrity endorsements from the likes of Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah Winfrey and many more.
A mentor is someone who can guide, advise, and support you to achieve your goals and progress in your professional and personal life.
Sounds nice right?
But there’s something about the way the media discusses mentoring that makes it sound rather unattainable, or reserved for the lucky few who were in the right place at the right time.
On top of that, even if you have identified someone you’d like to be mentored by, it’s naturally quite intimidating to approach them and ask for their help.
From working with hundreds of mentors and mentees at Guider, we’re experts in what makes the perfect mentoring relationship.
First thing's first, why do you want a mentor?
Obviously support and guidance is nice, but what do you actually want to improve or achieve? What goals are you working towards?
Try and write down the answers to these questions before you even think about finding a mentor. This exercise of self-awareness will highlight the areas you want to work on, which will help when it comes to finding a person to help you get there.
Common reasons people find a mentor:
Whether it's learning to manage people for the first time, or growing your confidence with public speaking, having a mentor to guide and advise you has a considerable impact.
Finding a mentor can feel like you’re asking for a lot. You’re asking somebody to give up their time, for free, to help you. It’s easy to feel slightly powerless in this dynamic, as you’re wholly dependent on the generosity of others.
However, this is not a good position to find a mentor from. Instead, you must be hungry to learn and committed to your own success. Your personal and career development doesn’t start when you get a mentor, that’s something you have to own and the mentoring will follow more naturally.
Be the person that somebody wants to mentor. Make a conscious effort to know exactly what you want, put yourself out there, and work hard to attract this high-level help and support.
It’s tempting to ask a stranger to be your mentor, whether in a desire to reinvent yourself or start your relationship without any preconceptions. However, the challenge of getting a stranger to mentor you is far greater (and more daunting) than somebody who already knows you.
Start by thinking of people you know and admire. These people will already know your personality and will hopefully be more invested in your development.
Remember, your request for mentorship is going to be received much more favourably if that person already knows and respects you.
If you do have a stranger in mind who you’re desperate to be mentored by (maybe you saw them talk at a conference, or follow them on Twitter) don’t ask them to be your mentor straight away.
No matter how persuasive your outreach might be, this person is likely very busy and desirable, so why would they help you?
What you can do instead is start engaging with them and their work. Share and comment on their updates on social media, attend events they’ll be at, start insightful conversations with them, help solve their problems. It’s essentially like putting in the groundwork towards mentorship.
You can’t expect a stranger to want to help you, but you can be proactive in making them not a stranger!
If you have an image in mind of what your ideal mentor may be like, forget about it. It can be easy to get stuck waiting for a perfect person to come along that, in reality, doesn’t exist.
A great mentor is someone that inspires you, sparks ideas and is genuinely invested in the relationship. Remember, you may have several mentors throughout your career and so one person doesn’t need to be a perfect fit to be beneficial. You don’t want to miss out on a great mentor because they don’t fit the image you had in your head.
Stay open-minded. Focus on what you want to learn, who do you feel good speaking with, and what energy does someone have. You may be surprised!
If you’re having trouble knowing where to start with finding a mentor, speak to your company! Mentoring is becoming more and more commonplace within organisations, and it’s a fair thing to ask for in order to develop your skills and career aspirations. Your company may have its own mentoring program already, or be able to advise you with where to turn to if they don't.
Guider is a mentoring software that businesses can use to run internal mentoring programs. Matching mentors and mentees via smart algorithms takes the difficulty of finding a mentor out of your hands. Speak to your organisation to see if this is something they could use.
So you’ve got a person in mind that you think will be able to help you achieve your goals and progress in your career. Somebody to introduce you to new ideas and ways of thinking, challenge you, and guide you in the right direction.
Bear in mind, you still don’t know at this point if they will be a good mentor. So you don’t want to ask them to be your mentor straight away, because you could get 2 sessions in and realise you don’t get along, or they’re not as knowledgeable as you thought.
Instead, ask them for a coffee (or arrange a casual video call if they're in a different location). Say you’d love to talk to them about a certain topic or their experience, and have some questions ready. This is your opportunity to figure out if they could be a good mentor for you, as well as impress them so that they’ll say yes when you actually ask them.
💡 TIP: You want to leave this prospective meeting feeling inspired, excited, and potentially even better about yourself. If you didn’t feel good, perhaps they’re not the right person to mentor you. Don’t be so set on finding a mentor that you invest in the wrong relationship.
If you found this meeting beneficial and you’d like this person to mentor you and enter a more formalised agreement / relationship, the only thing left to do is ask them.
It’s the part that people find most daunting, but really it’s the easiest bit. Just reach out and ask them if they’d like to mentor you. Specify the regularity you’re looking for to set expectations, what goals you are working towards, and any challenges you're facing they could support with.
Remember to explain how you believe they can help you – a bit of ego flattery goes a long way!
Hopefully, if your meeting went well, it should be a resounding yes. People like helping people, generally.
A good mentoring relationship takes dedication and effort from both parties. If you’ve managed to find a good mentor, make sure you put in the time to make it work!
Don’t always wait for your mentor to initiate meetings or targets, take the reins and make sure you achieve the goals you set out in the very beginning. And don't forget to thank your mentor for their time. Showing gratitude is a sure-fire way to build a positive relationship with any mentor and best of all, it's free!
And that's how to find a great mentor! Good luck 🙌