A mentor is someone who offers their expertise (experience, knowledge and skills) in a specific area to help and advise someone less experienced, over time, to develop their skills and their goals through confidential conversations and other learning activities.
It’s essential that you are clear on why you need a mentor, understand their role and build a reciprocal relationship i.e. what is your mentor getting out of it.
According to this article: a good mentor:
- takes an interest in developing another person’s career and well-being;
- has an personal and professional relationship with their mentee;
- helps to advance a person’s goals;
- tailors their mentoring style and approach to best suit their relationship with their mentee, including adjusting to cultural and personal differences.
I’ve found my mentors both by accidents and on purpose.
When I’ve purposefully sought out a mentor, it was for a specific area of my life I wanted to improve e.g. my career; finances, health, etc.
The first thing I did was write down all the qualities I wanted my prospective mentor to have. These included: being generous, challenging, loving, driven and self-actualised.
Then, I wrote down what I wanted to learn from them e.g.:
- Leadership Skills: taking ownership, being accountable; successfully managing teams/groups;
- Financial Independence: creating financial freedom that would allow me to live my life on my terms
- Health & Wellness: develop a holistic approach to taking care of my body
- Facilitating Workshops: leading great interactive workshops
Then I thought about what I could offer in return. This included volunteering at a mentor’s event and helping them to get a speaking engagement.
If I couldn’t think of anything, I just offered my assistance and left it open for their suggestions. One of the requests I received was to babysit!
Then I found the people I knew who had the expertise in I needed in each areas.
There are various ways to find a mentor so make sure you do your research on prospective mentors beforehand.
Next, I wrote a succinct practice email/conversation I would have with each prospective mentor. I started off by introducing myself, said why I admire them, what I’d like to contribute to them or their business and then made the ask.
You may prefer not to ask the person to “be your mentor” straightaway as it’s a big ask.
Instead you can ask for an informal meeting e.g. meet up for a coffee for 30 minutes or so. If the meeting goes well and you have good rapport, then ask them “be your mentor”.
It’s a good idea to have more than one prospect to ask to mentor you in a specific area, just in case the first person you ask is unable to or isn’t a good match.
Once your prospective mentor agrees to mentor you, it’s important that you:
- accommodate their schedule;
- arrive on time and prepared to every meeting
- are open to the different communication styles e.g. face-to-face, Skype, FaceTime, email, phone;
- be humble, respectful and listen to them.
To maintain a good mentoring relationship:
- make sure you have regular meetings;
- know what you want to get out of your meetings and have a mentoring plan;
- jointly agree to a minimum period of time you would like to meet for;
- respect the time and energy they are giving you;
- do the work and follow through. Don’t waste their time.
Having a mentor is a great way to develop and grow in a specific area of your life. With their insight and expertise, my mentors have given me clarity and helped me reach my goals quicker than I would have done alone.
I hope reading this helps you find a mentor that’s right for you.