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How To Get And Keep A Mentor

I’d like to have a mentor; for obvious reasons. I’d like to be guided with my entrepreneurial exploits, professional development, spiritual growth among a few other aspects of my life. I’ve been reading around the internet on the subject and I thought I share what I learnt.

1. Pick The Right Mentor:

An important first step is identifying someone who can be a good mentor for you. Your mentor should be someone you respect and someone who is respected by others. However, the biggest star at your company or in your career field may not be the best fit for you. What you really want is someone who will be concerned with your career and will have the time to invest in you and the patience to help you learn. Identifying people like this in your work life is the first step to forging a good mentoring relationship.

2. Remember That Mentoring Can Take Many Forms:

Your mentoring relationship must not look a certain way. The relationship certainly can take the form of an ongoing one-on-one connection, but you can also have what an experts calls “mentoring episodes” — briefer interactions where you still learn something valuable. In other words, you don’t have to be in a mentoring relationship to give or get mentoring. If you think of mentoring as something that can take a lot of different shapes, formal or informal, it can be a lot less intimidating to seek out a mentor.

3. Ask For Advice

Asking someone to be your mentor is tough. You probably don’t want to barge into someone’s office and be all like, “excuse-me-will-you-be-my-mentor.” Instead, if there’s someone whose brain you really want to pick, or whom you’d like to develop a closer working relationship with, think of some specific things you want their advice on. You can then ask them to have lunch or coffee with you to talk about them. As a potential mentee, figure out what your “learning goals” are before approaching potential mentors — that way, you’ll have concrete things to talk about and a clear picture of how the mentor can help you.

4.Propsoe An Idea

Another possible way to approach a mentor is to propose a new project or idea, and see how they react to it. Not only is this a good way to initiate a closer working relationship with someone, and potentially solicit their guidance — it’s also a way to evaluate what they will be like as a mentor. If they tear down your idea or aren’t receptive, they may not be a good fit for you. But if they offer suggestions for improvement or help build on what you’ve proposed, you may have yourself a winner. And you can use that interaction as a springboard for future mentoring conversations.

5. Set Some Guidlines Beforehand

When you’re entering into a mentoring relationship with someone, you should have a talk with them — not just about what you want to learn, but about how you want the relationship to go. Talk about confidentiality — will what you say to your mentor stay between the two of you, or will he or she be sharing it with other people? Discuss how you’ll handle any disagreements or problems that might come up. And make an agreement that if at any point the mentoring relationship ends, you’ll make sure to have a “good closure conversation” that allows you both to express appreciation, talk about what you learned, and move on. Depending on the formality of your mentoring relationship, it may not make sense to talk about all these things explicitly, or all at the same time. But you definitely should be thinking around those lines when you are about to start a mentorship relationship— including its possible end.

6. Check In Frequently

Check-in regularly with your mentor to make sure everything in the relationship is going smoothly. Touch base with each other about whether you’re both getting your needs met — are you getting the advice you need? Are you being respectful enough of your mentee’s time? Regular check-ins can help resolve disagreements or problems before they become major. They can also help you get the most out of your mentoring relationship. Again, you may not need to check in all the time with some of the more informal mentors. But if you’re in an ongoing mentoring relationship with someone, “you should always have a meeting date on the calendar.”

7. With Personal Conversations, Let The Mentor Set The Tone

Especially if you’re friendly with your mentor, you may be tempted to talk about your personal life with him or her, and even to ask advice about personal matters. Depending on your relationship, this could be totally fine — after all, a mentor can also be a friend. But let the mentor lead the way with respect to disclosure. If your mentor keeps things super-professional, you may not want to ask he what to get your girlfriend for Christmas. But if he talks about what he’s getting his spouse, that can be your cue to open up a little bit. Also, remember not to put your mentor in a difficult position ethically or legally by asking him to keep secrets he’s actually obligated to divulge.

8. Keep In Touch If You Swtich Jobs

Even if you leave your job, no one’s going to make you give your mentor back. If your mentor was a coworker, you might not see each other or talk as much as you once did. But you can still keep in touch by email and at networking events in your field, and you can still benefit from your mentor’s expertise. Rather than having one mentor at any given time, you should seek out multiple mentors, a constellation of relationships that give you the work wisdom you need. Obviously you don’t need to be meeting with each of these mentors regularly, or even ever —  long-distance mentor can definitely be part of your constellation. But you can seek advice from any or all of them depending on the situation you find yourself in. When you do find good mentors, you need to treasure those relationships like you treasure your friends.

“Image source: http://africanmosaic.blogspot.com/2011/03/basics-benefits-of-mentoring.html

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