Early Careerist Series v.1 - Finding a Mentor

Hi Everyone! Happy Wednesday! I hope everyone had a relaxing Memorial Day weekend. And thank you to all the servicemen and women who lost their lives in combat, as well as those who continue to serve our country. 

Hunter and I are just getting back into town from our mini getaway to Cape Cod and Boston! We loved both places, but Cape Cod completely stole our hearts. And lobster rolls exceeded my expectations! All the seafood was so fresh up there. We also had a blast going to the Red Sox game and experiencing Fenway Park for the first time. 

With that being said, we are thrilled to be back home for the next month until we head on a longer trip to England and Ireland!

I’m also excited to get back on my blogging schedule and get out some new content. 

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Mentors: how to find them, how to ask for mentorship, and how to successfully develop those relationships! 

Finding a Mentor

If you are anything like me, I benefit greatly from bouncing ideas, concerns and questions off of people who have been in my shoes and have navigated professional or personal situations successfully. 

Before identifying a mentor, you need to determine what area of your life are you looking for guidance.

Are you looking for someone in your same industry? 

Are you hoping to make a career switch and meet people in another profession? 

Do you want personal guidance about work-life balance? 

You may find that certain mentors will only be able to advise on one area of your life. I find that it helps to have mentors in different walks of life since they can provide a wealth of advice and guidance that help in different areas of my life. You may want a mentor who is a few years a head of you in your same field since they will be all too familiar with any struggles or situations you may be experiencing.

You may want someone who is mid-way through their career who can advise on balancing work and family or managing a team. Lastly, if you are lucky enough to connect with an executive-level individual who is willing to provide mentorship, they can give more strategic advice and share their tips for success-since they've obviously worked!

It’s also important to note that some mentor relationships develop naturally, and other times you may have to be more intentional in seeking out a mentor relationship with someone who you don’t know as well. A mentorship that develops naturally may seem like the best, most comfortable scenario, but it is totally normal and acceptable to seek out a mentor as well! Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have suitable mentor candidates in their direct work environment.

Some organizations also have built-in mentor programs or management training programs that result in other individuals who have shared the same role and are often more than willing, if not expected, to provide guidance to those that follow after them. 

I completed an administrative fellowship program that did have that built-in mentorship, but I have also chosen to seek out mentors from that mid-career and executive-level to provide different perspectives. 

So assuming you aren’t paired with a mentor or you want other mentor relationships, here are a few steps for laying a foundation for a strong mentorship. 

Asking for Mentorship

If you run into a potential mentor in-person and have a conversation, this can be a convenient excuse to email them with a follow up about getting coffee or lunch sometime. That way you are fresh in their mind and it doesn’t seem like a cold call!

If they accept, make it as convenient as possible for them. Offer to come to their office or to a lunch or coffee spot close to their work. For someone later in their career, they may only be able to give you 30 minutes of their time. For someone with less commitments, you may be able to meet for an hour. 30 minutes might seem short, but if you come prepared you can cover a lot in that period of time.  I also always offer to pay for their coffee or lunch if I have asked them to meet (even if you know they probably won’t accept). If your meetings turn into a more regular occurring, you will likely go dutch!

Next, you must come prepared. There is nothing worse than calling a meeting with someone and then having no questions or making them lead the entire conversation. Think about why you wanted to meet in the first place? Tell them about your background and current role and then be ready to ask about their history, as well as more targeted questions.

For example, how did you get into X industry, what was your first leadership role, what skills do I need to develop for this type of role, how did you balance family and work when your kids were younger, etc. 

If you do not know very much about who you are meeting with, it may also be helpful to research your potential mentor and come prepared with targeted questions about their past (e.g. I saw you worked at ABC company, how did you handle X, Y, Z while working there?)

I also recommend having your first meeting and seeing if there is chemistry before asking to meet more often. If the first meeting goes well, then ask if they would be willing to meet once a month or every other month. If the individual is a top-level executive, a quarterly meeting might be sufficient.

Like I mentioned, you never want to waste their time so if you ask to meet too often you might not have enough to update them on each meeting. You may even find that it works best not to schedule a set time, but instead set up ad-hoc meetings or just have them available via text or email as you need their guidance. If the chemistry wasn’t there, then treat it as a one-time informational interview and thank them for their time!

Building a Lasting Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The best advice I ever received in regards to mentorship was to offer to help your mentor. They are giving you some of their precious time, but the best mentorships are mutually beneficial. If you can find a way to help them with a side project or something in your spare time, they will be much more willing to continue to develop the relationship. 

I also think it is important to continue to foster former mentor relationships, as well as begin new mentorships with you as the mentor! The best part of mentorship is the wonderful network and community it builds, so it is important to pay it forward and be open to mentoring others. You can even approach a junior team member and offer to meet with them if they ever have any questions. 

For maintaining former relationships, I like to reach out every six months to a year with a quick update via email. It is easiest to do this around the holidays when you have an excuse to reach out and wish them well. Another way to stay on someone’s radar is to periodically send them an interesting article that you thought they might enjoy. 

Lastly, sometimes mentor relationships evolve and change. If your mentorship turns into a job with that person or their company, the relationship may not be removed enough from “business as usual” to be an effective mentorship. You may find that your meetings go from career advice to review of team objectives and to-dos. It is important to recognize that this can happen and is totally normal. At this point, you may need to find a new person to connect with as well. 

The most important tip is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Most people will be very flattered to be asked to be a mentor and will enjoy the relationship as much as you do!

Comment down below with what topics you would discuss with a mentor!




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