Having a mentor is a lot like going into turbo speed in the career race. A good mentor can guide you through difficult situations and give invaluable feedback to help you spot your strengths and flaws to build on them. However, identifying and then asking someone to be your mentor can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to help you identify and secure a mentor that will help you get ahead.
Don’t be afraid to aim high and broaden your horizon: while you can start with your current boss as a mentor, you also don’t have to limit your options. Create a preliminary list of people that you like to have as your mentor. You can start with a list of the people you admire most. Make a list from order or preference and order them with the likelihood of them being your mentor to gauge expectations.
Don’t ask “will you be my mentor?”: Questions are a great way to assess mentors. You want to measure their thinking and ability to help, so instead of asking “will you be my mentor?” ask for a specific question to get specific advice. You also want to see how they respond. Don’t expect them to know everything about what you do. The idea, however, is to start a conversation and build a relationship with smart, actionable advice. Keep it brief and to the point.
Follow up: This is critical. If you get feedback from someone you admire, be sure to follow up, which could take the form of an email. Start by saying thanks and continue with how you are applying the advice they gave you. You’ve not only shown gratitude but also confirming that you are using their input to solve a real problem. At the end of the message, don’t forget to ask permission to see if you can contact the person again in the future for further advice. Approval is key.
Continue asking specific questions: In so doing, you are engaging in a conversation and building trust. This opens the door to many possibilities, like meeting for coffee and having one-to-one meetings. But first, you must prove yourself by heeding their advice and demonstrating results.
Mentors are teachers of life. They make you aware of your own blind spots, give feedback, and hold you accountable for your goals. Most importantly, a mentor will help you think long-term about your career and how to plan for it. Mentoring is about building relationships.
Build a relationship with your mentor that is considerate of their needs and time restraints. Decide who you want, what exactly is that you want, and what you are willing to give in exchange.