Not everyone has the good fortune to work at an organisation where mentoring is offered as part of their internal professional development. Instead, you may be forced to look to external networks to find a mentor. For some, they may be a member of an industry body where a mentor program is offered. However, these are sometimes limited to only a select few members participating due to either the cost involved or the scarce number of mentors available.
So where else can you find a mentor?
- Professional networks:
The most obvious place to look first is your professional networks. However the challenge is identifying who might be willing to give their time and who is going to be the best ‘fit’ to be your mentor. Often the most obvious choice has already been asked by 100 people before you so you also need to be conscious that asking this of someone is probably not a new thing for them. We suggest shortlisting 5 of your preferred options and then approaching them with a more general question — or perhaps acknowledging they’ve had a direct experience in something you’re interested in. Play to their ego — everyone always likes being asked their opinion, as opposed to asking someone up front to be your mentor might get them on the back foot from the start.
- Personal networks:
Sometimes we just assume that our friends and family know us well enough that they would naturally make a suggestion or introduction if they thought relevant. Thing is we are all busy people and chances are you are not on your mates top priority list. Again, talk to your friends/family more generally about the problem you are facing and what might be the best way to connect with someone to solve it. If you ask them to help with workshopping a solution they are going to have a better understanding of your problem and may be more inclined to offer up some of their personal connections.
- Industry bodies:
If you’re seeking to connect with someone in your industry it might be worthwhile researching what relevant networks/member groups exist. While some industry bodies can be expensive to join, there are alternatives. A quick search via LinkedIn might reveal a number of industry focussed interest groups which you can join for free. MeetUp is also a valuable online events network which may lead to specialist events being held in your city where you can physically go along and network and potentially connect with someone who might be willing to mentor you.
- Your parents networks:
You may think your parents are out of touch and out of date but there is no denying that after many years of work and life experience most of our parents will have someone within their network who could be a very useful contact. Even if they don’t, they’ll love you even more for asking!
We know that it can be challenging to connect with someone who not only is able to provide you with some guidance but also that you have a natural rapport with. That’s why you should view this process as if you were courting a love interest. You don’t ask to marry someone after the first date, so you shouldn’t really ask someone to be your mentor after a first meeting. Take your time — there’s someone out there for everyone!
No matter how you find them – make sure you do. Here are 4 ways a mentor can benefit your career.