Tips for Seeking Out a Mentor from Successful Women Who Have Done It
Seeking out a mentor can be hard. Where do you look? How do you ask? However, mentorship can be a valuable tool in your career growth. In fact, people who have had a mentor are 130 percent more likely to be in a leadership role, according to Mentoring.org. If you want to find a mentor to help you learn and take the next step in your career, take some advice from these women who have mentored and been mentored themselves.
Take Your Search Online
Most traditional mentorship advice tells you to find someone at your company, take them out to coffee, and ask in person. But that may not be the best way for you to find a mentor. Especially if you live in a small town or work as a contract employee, with little attachment to the companies you work for.
In this modern world, take your search online, suggests Lauren Pope, Senior Content Specialist for G2 Crowd. She says, “I never would have met [my mentor] if I hadn’t stepped outside my limited thinking about mentorship and tried something new.”
Pope found her current mentor on LinkedIn. “There are thousands of professional women across every social media platform who are willing and eager to help other women.”
The trick is engaging with someone you want to ask before reaching out. This allows you to build a relationship, even from a distance. Pope started following her mentor and commenting on posts. “After she noticed me and began engaging, I sent her a LinkedIn request and continued chatting with her. Before long, she was commenting on my posts and we were speaking weekly about our careers and our industry,” says Pope.
Now the two live in different states—Oregon and Illinois—but Pope says, ”It works!” so don’t let the traditional path to finding a mentor keep you from the right person.
Look Outside Your Company
If you’re not sure that there’s a great mentor for you at your current company, take your search outside the four walls of your office, suggests Sandi Knight, CHRO for HealthMarkets, who’s had two impactful mentors in her life. She explains, “I was very fortunate early in my career to have a few mentors who helped me in different ways,” including taking her to important meetings with people “at the next level” so she could be seen and heard.
The value of having a mentor is many, especially an “external mentor” as Knight calls it. She’s introduced many people early in their career to mentors who weren’t associated with the mentee’s organization. She explains, “I have found that it can be very rewarding to have an external mentor. It is great because when you get different perspectives, you bring different perspectives.”
This rich experience can add new layers to your learning, allowing you to experience leadership and culture in a company that’s totally new to you. As someone growing in their career, being able to bring different perspectives to the table makes you more valuable to the team and company as a whole.
Network to Build Relationships
So often, networking is about building our business or career. If you’re already networking like this, shift your focus from climbing the ladder to finding a mentor and focus on building a relationship, says Caryanne Keenan, Executive Career and Life Coach for LifeWorkSource.
She explains, “I recommend to clients that they immerse themselves in networking and social activities with people who have similar passions, career interests, or hobbies, so that networking occurs more naturally.” If you don’t have any go-to networking events yet, Keenan suggests looking to your college’s alumni network, “a group of people linked by a shared experience.”
The key, however, is making it all about the people you meet to develop relationships built on genuine interest and value. Keenan recommends being curious: “Talk with people about their career paths, motivations, passions, etc. and find points of connection.”
Only when you’ve established rapport should you ask about mentorship. But don’t stop there; follow up and show dedication to the relationship, says Keenan. It will only be as successful as the work you put into it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Just Ask
While building a relationship can be helpful, sometimes simply reaching out to make your ask can work just as well. It worked for Christine Mitterbauer, of Christine Coaching, who explains, “I have found two female mentors by reaching out cold, when I was undergoing a big career change.”
Her tactic was one we’re all familiar with. She used Google and LinkedIn to find women who were experts in their field, who she also found fascinating, and wrote simple message asking for a 10 minute phone call to learn about their industry. “I’ve always made sure to sound curious, humble and thankful,” says S.
She’s now had 8 to 9 of these conversations every time she changed her career. And each time, she ended with a great mentor. The key for S was never asking for a mentor, but rather, “I thought about what I could offer them in return for their time and advice. By offering this, it naturally leads to them giving back.”