For decades, a reliable strategy for growth and success has been having a mentor. To those without one, acquiring one is often viewed as a large and sometimes imposing task. The reality is it is easier than you might think. One study showed that 98% of respondents felt having a mentor was important to their career success. The same study showed that indicated only 10% of folks feel satisfied with their current mentor situation.
Why is it important?
Having a mentor provides a wealth of perspective on a variety of topics. It puts someone whose job is to push you, ask important questions, and generally help you out of your comfort zone square in the middle of your life. Mentors are also a tremendous source of feedback. Many people don’t tell us the elements (behaviors, skills, attitudes, etc.) that we have that are truly holding us back. Mentors, with only your success as their stake in the game, have a wide runway to be direct and clear for the purpose of helping you. Difficult feedback is often easier to hear from a mentor as well because we know the source is pure without an agenda. Having a mentor is especially important for women and people of color who often don’t have access to companies to the highest levels or inner circles of organizations.
Why is it hard to get one?
There are many perceptions that prevent people from seeking a mentor. The first is that such successful people are very busy or don’t have access to such people. The reality is these successful people are often ready and willing to be a mentor.
If you want a mentor, here are some tips to get one:
What do you need? Be clear on what you are looking for in a mentor.
Be clear and concise in your ask. Organize your thinking and succinct communication so you can be effective when you approach someone.
Be respectful of time. Know that you are asking for a small slice of their time, and every portion of your engagement with them should demonstrate respect for their time.
Get advice from other mentees. Ask your friends and colleagues who have mentors how they made it happen.
Look in many places for possible mentors. Mentors can be found in so many places. Certainly, your workplace is a source, but other sources are your university and its alum, professional associations, places of worship, authors, etc. LinkedIn provides a terrific forum to reach out to people who are successful.
Consider what you can offer. People are more inclined to help when you can offer something in return. Brainstorm about different ways you can add value to others in return for their time and perspective.
Become a mentor yourself. Giving back to others is admired and might encourage others to lean in to help you based on this strong value.
Don’t be afraid of no. Assume you will need to get through many “no’s” to get to the desired yes. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Use the learning to improve the next time you ask. Also – create room for the fact that simply people are either too busy or don’t feel confident in that role.
Be creative in your outreach. Find a way to get people’s attention. Send a letter – often no longer done today. Ask someone you know if that person would ask on your behalf. Drop off a box of donuts with the ask. Go to where the person is if they are a public figure and learn about what they have to offer and then ask them for help.
Act as if your life depends on it. Because frankly, it does. Your success will be achieved based on the more you know, the more you have access to, the bigger your network and a mentor can help with all of these things.
Once you have one, because you will if you commit yourself to get one, ensure you read up on how to have a productive relationship. The small amount of uncomfortableness will get you a significant positive return. But the last thing to consider is you can change the one you have if it isn’t a fit and you can have more than one! Set a goal, a timeframe by which you will have one, and apply these strategies! You can do it!