How to find the right mentor

How to find the right mentor

Rachel Hunter

By: Rachel Hunter – August 2015

If you want to truly excel in your role then finding a suitable mentor is an excellent (some would say ‘essential’) part of achieving this. Many organisations offer mentoring programs, however, the most beneficial mentoring tends to come from developing a relationship with a mentor that you have identified as being aligned to your personality type and as having the skills and experience needed to guide you to success.

However, before you engage a mentor, you should take the time to carefully define your goals and develop a strategy for achieving them, because if you haven’t done this, how can you be sure to find the right person to mentor you?

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Here are some tips that can help you find a great mentor: 

Set your goals

Your goal(s) defines the questions you need to ask to find the right mentor, otherwise your time together will be lacking in direction and purpose (your time needing to be outcome-focused and closely aligned to your personal and career goals).

Before you even start looking for a mentor, you should therefore ask yourself what EXACTLY it is you want to achieve from these sessions…do you want to improve a specific skill?, increase knowledge in a specific area, develop a certain leadership style? Etc.

Once you have identifies your goal(s) you can build a profile of the ideal mentor and begin your search for the right fit.

Network

There are many opportunities to find a good mentor via established networks and networking events, example of which include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Professional associations
  • Business networking groups
  • Online networking industry groups (e.g. Linkedin, Facebook, Company Director, etc)
  • Internal graduate mentoring programs

Ask for introductions

A great way to find a good mentor is to ask for introductions by influential people you know who may have relationships with people (or access to networks) that you don’t. An added bonus of this approach is that, as long as you’re clear about the type of mentor you’re after and what you want to achieve, there is a better chance of success when working on ‘recommendation’ (and, of course, a greater chance of the mentor agreeing to work with you if they’re being introduced by a mutual friend/colleague).

Be picky

There are, in fact, a surprising number of generous people out there willing to share their time and knowledge with you (sometimes even for free). However, unless you’re specific in your needs and diligent in your search for the right person (and willing to say “thanks, but no thanks”) you could end up with the wrong mentor, wasting your and their precious time.

Value quality over quantity

In regards to both the time you spend with your chosen mentor and their knowledge and capability in your required area of expertise, ‘quality’ is unquestionably worth more than ‘quantity’ so don’t be fooled, for example, by the idea of getting more time with someone with less capability for your money over someone for less time, but with more to offer in terms of expertise.

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Get them to agree

When contacting your ideal mentor, you need to be clear in what it is you want from them and provide a compelling reason for them to give it. If, for example, you’re going to invite to lunch to ask their advice, it’s important that you let them know who you are, what you want, an idea of the kind of advice you’re after, and what you want to achieve as no-one likes to be surprised with this type of request at the meeting.

In summary

In addition to training programs and the skills and experience you pick up ‘on the job’, mentoring is a fantastic way to improve your skills, capabilities, and career prospects and is, in fact, often beneficial to both parties. Follow the above steps to find your ideal mentor and you’re sure to reap the rewards in no time!

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