Let’s be honest, finding a mentor can be kind of awkward. And yet we’re consistently told that one of the best ways to advance in our careers is to find one. It’s not easy to find a mentor, I’ll never tell you that it is. But when you find a mutually beneficial mentor/mentee relationship, trust me, it’s worth all the awkwardness in the world.
The Ugly Truth About Mentorship
In my experience though, it’s harder for women to find good mentors. You see, sometimes there’s this weird dynamic at work among women and it’s one that I’d like us to stop. It’s this idea that if we help other women, they’re gonna take our jobs. It’s this idea that if we help other women succeed, it means that we’ll instead have to fail. It’s about competition instead of finding ways to lift each other up, and friends, no lie, that’s one of the reasons why so many women get stuck.
Now before you start making phone calls and writing emails that start with, “Hi, will you be my mentor?” here are a few things you ought to remember that’ll help you find a mentor at work.
- Figure Out What You Want to Gain From Having A Mentor
You have to have some kind of goal. What do you want to gain from this relationship? Do you want real, solid, blunt feedback about your performance? Do you want some advice on how to handle a specific work situation? Or do you want your mentor to wave some magical wand that gets you promoted in three months? If that’s the case, both you and your mentor are in for a whole lot of disappointment. Because dude, that’s NOT what mentorship is about.
So yes, have a reasonable and clearly defined goal. I mean, if you’re taking the time to engage in a relationship with another professional, and they’re taking the time to engage with you, there has to be a purpose. If I’m going to mentor someone, it’s because I see potential in them and there’s something in particular that I can help them with. Otherwise, yea, I’m a bit selfish with my time and I’d rather be home with my cat. It’s that simple.
- Find Women In And Out Of Your Industry Who You Admire
Once upon a time ago, I wrote a post about pursuing a lifestyle you admire, as opposed to just a job. This same concept kind of applies to finding a mentor. When we think about finding a mentor at work, we tend to think that this person has to be a senior VP within our industry. We think that this person has to have had the same exact career path that we want to follow.
But that’s not exactly true, and there can actually be so much value in learning from women with different careers. They just need to be people living a similar lifestyle that I aspire to have myself, and what I’ve learned from them has been super helpful.
- Remember That A Mentor Can Be A Peer
Then there’s this. Again, your mentor doesn’t have to be the CEO of a company. In fact, most of those super senior executives are gonna flat out tell you they don’t have time to talk to you. But that’s okay, because do you really want a mentor who feels like you’re a terribly inconvenient obligation? Ehhh… no. You don’t. You deserve better than that, and sometimes that means tapping into a peer relationship for that mentoring you’re looking for. Nothing wrong with that.
- Take Advantage Of Online Mentorship
I’ve stalked people so hard online that I feel like I know them. I haven’t done anything crazy like shown up to their house or anything, but thanks to technology and Google, you can learn so much about some very successful people online. Like I said, people are busy. Not everyone will have the time to take your calls or have coffee meetings with you. But whenever possible, see what kind of information you can find online. Go to LinkedIn and study the different jobs that some of these executives have held. See if you can find a published interview that they’ve given. Have they written a book? If so, read it. And also know that it’s okay to engage in a virtual mentorship relationship with someone (via e-mail, Skype, etc.) You don’t need to have a face-to-face meeting every month in order for that exchange to be valuable.
- It’s About Quality, Not Quantity
Like I’ve already mentioned, people are busy. We’ve got lives, yo, so that makes regular meetings a little hard to schedule sometimes. But just because your mentor can’t commit to bi-weekly or monthly meetings doesn’t mean that the relationship can’t work. It’s about the time you do spend together that’s important. So make every moment count. When you meet, go prepared. Go with a list of questions and topics you want to cover. Some of the most helpful and inspiring meetings that have helped me in my career were with people I met with only ONCE. But boy did I make those moments count, and I’m thankful for each and every one of them.
So that’s it! Just a few pieces of advice to help you on your search for a mentor! And as always, I’m just an email away if you need anything!
Love & Sparkle,