Mentoring is not a new relationship. The concept of having someone, usually with more experience and knowledge, partner with you to help you navigate and manage your career, has been around forever. Consider the words Apostle, Disciple or Apprentice. A mentor is simply someone you can go to for advice, encouragement and guidance. A mentor also provides you with objective feedback and counsel.
Some companies have a formal mentoring program where interested mentees are matched up with more seasoned employees or managers. Even though more companies are learning the value of a structured program to groom employees, many employees do that have the availability of such an opportunity.
Most people interested in their career development would like to have a mentor but have no idea how to find that special someone. If that sounds like you, simply ask yourself if you know of someone (in a prior work environment or in an organization you would like to work, an acquaintance you know through networking, an organization or church) who could meet these criteria and simply start your own mentoring relationship:
- Experience beyond yours so you will benefit from expertise, knowledge, and experiences as well as mistakes and how to avoid them
- Authentic interest in your career and willingness to offer you candid and honest feedback
- Confidentiality of discussions, especially when your examples involve people known to your mentor
- Ability to meet regularly
If you are interested, how do you get started?
- Just Ask – let’s say you have selected a woman who you know and admire from a professional organization. Tell her that you are interested in advancing your career and think you could gain much knowledge from her; would she be able to meet for coffee? Once you meet, you can explain what you are trying to learn from her and would love for her to share some experiences. Most people, if they have the time, are tremendously flattered and agree.
- Respect your Mentor’s Time – Agree upon the frequency and duration of meetings with your mentor. Monthly or biweekly meetings work well. Once you establish a schedule, be prepared for your meetings (whether face to face or by phone) with an outline of topics you would like to discuss. Depending upon your mentor, she may prefer you send this in advance via email so she can be prepared.
Like most relationships, it takes time to develop an effective mentoring relationship. You will be amazed at the ideas, insights and confidence gained from a mentoring relationship. In addition to a professional relationship, you will probably make a close personal friend.