The Standing Taller Series: Finding The Right Mentor(s) for You
A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. — Oprah Winfrey
While Oprah isn’t usually one of the Marketing thought leaders we turn to for insights that help our clients, she couldn’t be more right when it comes to the power of mentorship.
Mentors are a great resource for any professional – no matter what stage of your career or the industry you work in. Mentors can not only help you shorten your learning curve as well as open you up to new ideas and perspectives. If that’s not enough, having a mentor in your workplace can help you develop unique relationships you otherwise wouldn’t have. If you are hoping to make a move or advancement in your career but are afraid of failure, wouldn’t it be smart to have someone to help you with the process to achieve the best result?
Why have a mentor?
First of all, I advocate for a mentor at every stage of your career. Having a Yoda (or more than one) helps you expand your horizons, handle stress effectively, and benefit from the wisdom and experience of someone who has been there and done that. They can help glean insights as you pave your career path and make important decisions in your professional career.
Who to choose?
It’s ideal if you can find a mentor who has previously been in your role. Someone who uniquely understands your challenges and has successfully navigated them. I also advocate for finding another mentor who has been in the next role you want (or the next, next role). They can validate whether it really is the role you want, highlight areas you need to further develop to get there, and if you’re lucky, even open some doors to help you get there.
A third mentor (hey, companies have a lot of advisors, why can’t you have more than one?) is someone who isn’t in your role or the next one but has an adjacent skillset or experience that would really be beneficial (e.g. if you are a Marketing Executive in a FinTech company, find a mentor who has years of experience in the Financial Services space who can fill in your understanding of how the industry works).
Like most things in life, preparation is the key for a successful mentorship. Identify and document what you want to achieve with each mentor. Continue to identify the knowledge and insights you want to get from them in accordance with your own professional development and career planning.
Approaching a mentor
Don’t be afraid to ask. Know someone who might be a great mentor for you but you are a little weary to ask because of their level or notoriety? Ask them. While time is of the essence for everyone, most people love to help others. Mentors who are in the second half of their careers place a high importance on helping others and fostering the next generation of business leaders. People like to share their story, and are flattered when someone shows admiration for them – it’s human nature. Let them know what you admire about them, what you’d like to learn from them and what your career goals are.
Ask others like your manager, colleagues, even people in your LinkedIn network if they know of someone who might be a great fit for you. Someone who not only meets the criteria I outlined above but is also the right personality fit for you. They should be direct and honest (you don’t want them wasting your time with fluff) but also supportive and genuinely interested in your succeeding.
Being a good mentee
Like any relationship, the mentor/mentee relationship goes both ways. Finding someone who is willing to help you in your professional career is the first step, but carrying out the relationship falls on both the mentor and the mentee. To help manage the relationship, set objectives and coordinate meetings to help move the relationship forward. Be conscious of your mentor’s time, always come prepared with objectives and a meeting plan. Ask your mentor if they need anything from you, and if you can do anything to be of service to them. Be open and honest about what you’re seeking from the relationship. It is the role of the mentor to guide and educate, and as the mentee, you’ll be responsible for setting up meetings, objectives, keeping communication, and being open to learning.
Like great teachers, mentors love to see you succeed. Celebrate your wins (new roles, promotions, awards,) with them and don’t forget to say thanks! A little can go a long way. Finding the right mentor can be a great personal investment. Be prepared, be open, and be honest. Through the help of a mentor, you can improve your experience in the workplace significantly.