It’s probably one of the questions we get asked the most – how do I find a mentor? As we approach the end of the year and the start of another, it’s prime mentoring season. People start to think about their hopes and dreams for the new year and how can they can start to influence their own destiny. Inevitably, many seek to find a mentor. But where does one start?
Well, I would suggest your mentor is closer than you think.
Often people come to the table with a very specific idea of who they want to be their mentor. The problem with this approach is that it’s often driven by what someone perceives as the perfect mentor – rather than the perfect mentor for them for right now.
This article is designed to not only help guide you on your path to finding a mentor but also to give you the mechanism to help unlock a mentoring movement at your organisation. Exciting isn’t it!
The right mentor for right now
First things first – let’s purge any ideas you already have around mentoring and start again. Having a fresh and open perspective will allow you to think differently about mentoring and help you find the perfect match.
At Mentorloop, we encourage an outcome driven approach to mentor matching. For the mentee, think specifically about the goal or outcome you are looking to achieve and use that as a starting point. It’s about who is the best person to help you get from point A to point B. Then it might be a completely different person to help you on the next milestone.
Using a very specific goal to drive the match is the first step in finding and ensuring a successful mentoring relationship.
Look within your existing network – don’t ask a stranger – ever
There is a common belief out there that a mentor is kind of like your guardian angel that you just haven’t met yet. The reality is however, that 99 times out of 100 a complete random stranger has absolutely no interest in hearing about your problem. It’s a bit like dating – if you were to ring up a stranger and ask them out on a date, high probability the answer will be no. It’s creepy. Same goes for approaching a mentor. You need to come in a bit warmer.
Therefore, I’d recommend and suggest that you first look to your existing networks. This could be through your work, industry or member association or networking groups. It may be that you don’t actually know this person – but someone you do does. A warm introduction is different to you randomly reaching out to someone cold.
Again, come back to what are you trying to achieve here and use that as a starting point for looking within your current network. Having a commonality such as the same employer makes for a more reasonable and compelling proposition – framed up correctly it would be hard for the mentor to say no.
Don’t proposition – do your research
So you’ve found someone that has the relevant experience or insight you are looking for – how do you actually ask them to be your mentor? Take the research you’ve done to date and use that to explain to the mentor why you think their specific expertise can help you. Doing it this way will show to that person that you’ve taken the time to understand your own problem and that the request is driven by a clear purpose. Let’s run through an example scenario. I’m mid career and looking to make an internal move into another area of the business where I see a more fulfilling career path. It could go something like this…
We’ve crossed paths a couple of times and I’ve always admired how you’ve navigated the internal landscape at XYZ Pty Ltd. Recently, I’ve been thinking about my future at XYZ and how can I continue to be an engaged and productive contributor. While I’ve enjoyed my time working in the Blue division, I’m really curious about learning more about the Yellow division and how my particular expertise could be transfer across.
Given you’ve gone through this experience before, I was wondering if I could buy you a coffee to talk through this in more detail?
A clear intent aligned back to a person’s specific experience or expertise becomes a very hard ask for someone to say no to.
Put a time frame on it
Everyone is busy and everyone already has a number of extracurricular commitments. Chances are the person you are asking to be your mentor already has a mentee. To avoid someone hesitating saying ‘yes’ follow up your ask clearly articulating the time commitment required. If you are looking to get from A to B you don’t need to be meeting with this person every week for the next 12 months. Instead, it might just be 3 or 4 catch-ups driven by a very tight agenda.
If you give the mentor closure up front it becomes very difficult to say no.
Don’t just look up – look sideways
We always say that some of the most impactful mentors we’ve had are other startup founders that are at the same point in their journey or slightly ahead. Don’t just think about mentoring in a hierarchical sense. Challenge yourself to look to your peers and think about what specific insight or skill do they have that you’d love to learn more about. To keep it truly peer to peer mentoring, think about how you could help them? We all possess a unique insight or a possible connection that could be helpful for someone else.
Start a mentoring movement – unlock your existing talent
The above suggestions will hopefully go someway in guiding you to seek out and find a mentor. I’d also recommend you check out our mentee checklist to ensure you’re across the etiquette of being a kick-ass mentee.
As you can see, finding a mentor in your network is still quite a time consuming process and there is an element of cold outreach. Wouldn’t it be great if you had visibility of who was available and open to being approached as a mentor within your business?
We are all about helping companies and teams unlock the existing knowledge they have and redeploying it in outcome driven mentorships. If you’d like us to help you access more mentoring opportunities within your business or community simply upvote a mentoring movement for your business with us.