How To Find The Right Mentor
By Jen Weitsen
Finding the right mentor can help you to elevate your career — whether you are just entering the workforce or already well established. It allows you to shape your skills, learn from a mentor’s strengths and previous challenges, navigate corporate politics and access the resources necessary to advance.
Michelle R. Ferguson, SVP of Global Business Services for McGraw Hill Financial, was co-founder of their mentoring program. In her recent Jam Session she shares how to find, build and maintain a successful mentor partnership.
How To Find Your Mentor
Mentorships can take many forms, such as a one-to-one relationship or a mentoring circle within an organization. The best mentor relationships are filled with two-way learning and reciprocation.
There are a few things to consider when looking for a mentor.
• Your specific challenge: As a mentee you want to gain an understanding of your mentor’s strengths and learn from his/her experiences.
• Do you need a mentor inside your organization or can it be someone outside? There are great benefits for having a mentor outside your organization with an independent view.
• Be aware of your personality and communication style. There has been great success with the matching of introverted and extroverted personalities.
• Time commitment: 1 to 3 hours per month is the approximate time commitment. Consider how much time can each realistically dedicate per month? Do you need to meet in person or can you communicate on the phone or via Skype?
• Join networking organizations: Attending events or joining organizations, such as the Ellevate Network are great opportunities to meet mentors.
Master The Ask
When asking a person to become your mentor, you want to be specific. Try something like, “I can see you’re a great team leader and I’m managing a team for the first time. Would you be able to work with me over the next year to become a great team leader?”
Building Your Mentor Partnership
A mentee is in the driver’s seat and needs to take the lead. That includes scheduling the meetings, coming up with an agenda and being specific about the goals.
A mentorship is a two-way exchange. It’s a way to trade best practice ideas and experiences. It could also be helpful to have a mentor that is different than yourself —that can open up and give you exposure to diverse experiences.
Effective strategies for building and maintaining an effective mentoring partnership include:
• Set meeting intervals: Make meetings top priority and keep them informal. At the early stages of a mentorship, you may want to meet more frequently, such as every other week, to build the connection. Then resume a once a month meeting schedule.
• It’s important to keep the mentor relationship dynamic: Schedule regular meetings and try to vary the places and modes of communication. For instance, you can meet for breakfast, attend a lecture or go to an industry event together.
• Outline goals: Prepare agendas/topics, outline development goals and keep your mentor updated on any changes to goals.
• Keep in casual contact throughout the month: Drop a quick email, connect briefly on the phone or exchange an interesting article. You can use social media and technology such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Instant Messenger to keep a strong connection.
• Partnership feedback: To measure effectiveness of the partnership over time, provide each other with fact-based, constructive feedback on the process.
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