Think about a difficult time in your life. You may have either been faced with a tough decision or How to Find the Mentor That’s Right For Youinvolved in a situation you didn’t know how to handle. What did you do? From personal experience, I can tell you I most likely turned to my cousin. She is my mentor in life, guiding me through inexperience and naivety, knowing exactly what to say as she has faced many of the same scenarios.
According to Merriam Webster, a mentor is “a trusted counselor or guide”. My cousin, as I mentioned, is a mentor to me, in more ways than one. She helps me with both life and my career, which typically go hand in hand. She does what every good mentor does:
- Explain when you don’t understand
- Impart wisdom
- Listen without judgment
- and provide feedback throughout your career journey
In every career book, at every career or leadership topical event, I hear a repetitive theme weaving through the conversations – get a mentor. It’s easy to talk about getting one, but actually finding one who you connect with can be really difficult. There are also different types of mentors we all need. Jennifer Dulski President and COO of change.org identifies the top 5 in a May 2013 LinkedIn blog she feels are important to have throughout your career.
- The Advisor – the expert who you’d like to learn something from
- The Role Model – who you want to be when you grow up
- The Listener – make sure it’s an active listener, who can get into your head
- The Motivator – someone who inspires you, reminds you of your greater purpose
- The Achiever – someone who sets high expectations for you to reach, without exception.
These are all great, and in an ideal world these relationships would come naturally, but how do you actually get a mentor and build that relationship with them?
Getting and maintaining a mentor
As my mother always says, it’s easier to get into something than it is to get out. So, before popping the “will you be my mentor” question, ask for their advice on something. Then reflect: how did it resonate with you? Did they understand your question, actively listen, and give you an answer that actually guides you to a solution? If yes, then go ahead and ask. If not – back to the drawing board.
A few more additional tips we talked about during the LEAP F2F Mentoring and Sponsorship discussion were to be clear and honest about your expectations. As the mentee you are responsible for driving the relationship, make sure this is known from the start. The mentor is usually someone who is a bit higher up so they are typically a little busier. Set the standard for how formal or informal you want the sessions to be, the cadence of those sessions, and what you would like to discuss during those sessions.
Above all, step out of the comfort zone and be open to change or someone different. You never know where it may take you!
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