I love having conversations with people, whether that is a laugh over some antics or a D&M about the meaning of vulnerability.
And sometimes, these conversations can blossom into the start of a certain type of relationship: that of a mentor/mentee.
These relationships are invaluable, no matter how informal they may be. I personally have a number of mentors, because different people provide their own unique perspectives on certain aspects of my life. The one thing they have in common is that they want to see me grow and succeed.
They impart their wisdom, and I am forever grateful to them.
Mentorship is also not something that just happens. It requires a thoughtful, humble, and proactive approach by the mentee. No idea where to start, though? No problem, my friend. Here are some thoughts to help you get on track to finding a mentor, and how to get the most out of the relationship.
The value of mentorship
Mentorship can be a key element of success: we need someone to challenge but support us, guide us through difficult times, and provide wisdom when our own may fall short. In fact, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, LeanIn.Org have launched the #MentorHer campaign – a brilliant initiative to ask men to mentor more women, because of how important mentorship can be.
While mentoring is important to the mentee’s success, the best mentoring relationship is of mutual benefit. Teaching results in a strengthening and deepening of the knowledge being shared. The greatest mentors will be humble and always open to learning, and will not shy away from the possibility of learning off their mentees.
How to find a mentor
There are numerous ways a mentoring relationship can begin, from a simple conversation to a targeted email. Think first about what you need guidance on, and then the best person to approach who can offer you this advice. If you would like to expand your perspectives on leadership styles, approach someone who you think is a great leader.
Here are some ways to approach it:
- If you have a great conversation, mention you’d love to hear more and suggest a lunch so that you can talk in more depth
- Ask your company if they have a mentoring program (and if they don’t… suggest it!)
- Reconnect with someone you used to know who you admire. Write something meaningful and relevant and ask if they would have time for a coffee. Pro tip: don’t outright ask if they will be your mentor
Show your passion and your openness to learn, and you’ll attract people who want to help you and see you grow and succeed.
How to make the most out of the relationship
Before you meet with your mentor, have a deep think about what you would like to get out of the catch-up. Time is one of our most valuable resources and when someone is giving you theirs, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared for a valuable discussion. I think that it is important that you, as the mentee, drive the conversation.
Here are some tips for you to get the most out of your catch-up:
- Have an idea in your mind about what you want out of the catch up – is it to hear their experiences, gain their perspective on a burning question or talk through a difficulty you are having?
- Have a think about your goals – short term and long term. They’ll probably ask you!
- Have an understanding of your mentor’s strengths and experiences so that you can tailor your discussions around these.
- Be curious, open-minded, and coachable
And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to show your appreciation. After every catch up, send them a thank you note. The small things count.
We are mentors and mentees, all at once
While we should all be looking for people to provide advice and support, we should also remember that no matter what stage of life or career we are at, we can also provide support and mentoring to someone else. We are mentors and mentees all at once. You will always have something you can offer to someone else; don’t undervalue your perspectives and experiences.
We should inspire and challenge each other, and hold each other to account. We should be there for each other in the low points, and celebrate on the highs.
That’s the power of mentorship.