Too many people want to become a mentor for the wrong reason but believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to seek out a mentor and build a mutually beneficial relationship and surprisingly that relies more on the diligence of the mentee than the mentor.
IT’S ABOUT THE PERSON, NOT THEIR POSITION.
Just because one has seniority and/or hold a position of authority – it doesn’t mean that they are qualified to be a mentor. It’s important to note that mentors don’t necessarily have to have the answer to everything, but what they can do is to share wisdom and experiences.
Its surprising when young ambitious women ask how to find a mentor. It’s something that you think most professional women would not find challenging. Yet, this question persists. Another surprising bit of information is, just because you’re a woman, doesn’t mean all your mentors have to be women.
Unfortunately, most people that seek mentorship are desperate and eager for advice. As such, they are not aware of the damage that can be done if they find a mentor with the wrong qualifications, profile or expectations. Mentoring is about sharing experiences, hardships and knowledge to help others best use their innate skills to grow and advance organically. It should represent the valuable insights and wisdom to help your mentee leap ahead authentically. Too many mentors mismanage the mentee relationship as they focus their time and attention on helping their mentee become more like them rather than strengthening their mentee’s potential. As a result, the mentee becomes more dependent upon their mentor – thus weakening their confidence and creating confusion in the process.
How do you know when a mentoring relationship was successful you ask; the relationship lasts forever! The mentor stays in touch with your journey and is ready when called upon. Many times, the mentee out-grows their mentor and a good mentor understands and respects that fact. The good mentors are the ones that feel good inside knowing that they made a difference in your success.
After doing extensive research from reliable mentorship sources, we have complied a list of ways that you, as the mentee, can ensure that you have the right mentor from the get-go.
1. Be teachable and be passionate. Be committed to whatever it is that you are working on. Have many mentoring moments during critical periods in your career. Surround yourself with good people. Along with mentors, seek out people who are willing to help you get closer to finding out what your strengths and talents are.
2. Clarify your ideal mentor. Get clear about what you want in a mentor. Make a list of who you want to be when you grow up. And then find a way to make them part of your life. Don’t limit yourself to one person. Women should always look up as high as they can.You may not have met your mentor yet; maybe you still will, so think outside the box, think not only within your circle, or organisation or country but also outside of that.
3. Reach out to people you admire. Finding a good mentor can be as important to your career as finding a soul mate is to the rest of your life. Don’t sit waiting until a mentor finds you. The best mentors are often women that you establish a relationship with, that you find a connection with.You put yourself out there, and get to know them – and, if they reciprocate with equal interest, then you keep going. And you build the relationship like you would any other relationship. Mentoring also doesn’t have to be strictly business. You can find mentors outside the workplace within your local community or from associations you’re involved with. You could try finding someone from your university alumni.
4. Use social media to show your interests and strengths. Make sure that you are putting your best self out there on social media. Take the time to create a profile that showcases your talent and strengths, as well as experiences. Look for people with common goals and experiences and make connections to expand your network.
5. Set your expectations early. Anyone whose advice you’d value is likely someone who has a lot of demands on their time. So value it highly! You might ask them if they would be willing to give you 30 minutes every few months, or if you could take them out for a coffee once a month or so.
There’s some debate about the traditional boundaries of mentorship but when it’s expanded to include sponsorship and advocacy, it’s proven to be a critical element of success by providing proteges with the opportunity to broaden their perspective, build social capital, navigate organizational politics more strategically, and muster up the confidence to ‘lean in’ and speak up when it matters most.
6. Make it a two-way value exchange. The value exchange in a mentor relationship can be heavily weighted in toward the mentee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reciprocate by supporting your mentor’s work and building their leadership brand. For instance, tweet out their posts, nominate them for an award, share their updates on LinkedIn or start a discussion that positions them as the expert or refer business their way.
What is in it for them? Will some of your choices benefit your mentor more than others? For example, if you work closely today with your mentor, and make his or her life easier and more successful, it could go two ways. Your mentor could be grateful enough to point you towards other opportunities that will help you grow even further, or they could get comfortable with having you around and only advise you in ways that ensure that you do stick around.
7. Mentor other women (even if you doubt what you offer). Even if you don’t think you’ve ‘made it’ (yet) or think you lack the expertise that might benefit a potential mentee, you’re still a long way ahead of women who are just starting out or are making a career transition.
‘And as all of you know, mentoring doesn’t have to require a huge commitment. It doesn’t take much. It can be as simple as taking your kid to the zoo, maybe shooting some hoops – — maybe going shopping, or just sitting around talking. Kids don’t need you to be Superman. They just need you to be there. They need you to be someone they can count on.‘ Michelle Obama at the National Mentoring Summit
Remember, mentors come in all different forms and shapes. Don’t be a greedy mentee, give while you take. Mentorship is about being able to empower each other, being willing to listen, give advice and coach people.