By Anja van den Berg
Many successful people attribute at least part of their success to having a mentor. The right mentor can provide advice and connections that help their mentee reach heights that would otherwise have been impossible.
“The research on the power of mentorship is pretty clear,” says Mark Horoszowski, cofounder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org.
“People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction.”
The cherry on top is that mentors benefit as well! Research suggests that providing career mentoring is associated with career success, psychosocial mentoring is linked to organisational commitment, and role-model mentoring is connected to job performance.
Horoszowski says that, even though 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is vital for growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship.
The problem, he says, is that people don’t know how to find a mentor or establish a relationship. The following four steps can help:
- Define your goals and specific needs
Define your career goals. Then, list some of the biggest obstacles to achieving them. This specificity will help you decide what type of mentor you should be looking for. By first understanding where you want to be, as well as the most significant opportunities and gaps to getting there, you’ll identify how a mentor can indeed be helpful to you.
- Write the “job description” of your ideal mentor
Equipped with your goals and what you need to help achieve them, define the type of mentor that can help you seize your most significant opportunities or navigate your challenges. Be specific about their academic and professional background – and even include some personality traits! You don’t necessarily share this “job description” with your future mentor, but you can refer to elements in the “job description’ when you approach him. Tell him why you’ve selected him and what you admire about their unique skillset.
- Have the first meeting
You have two goals for your first conversation with your potential mentor. First, you need to determine if this person is the right mentor for you. Second, you must find out whether he is open to the idea of mentoring you. How you approach the conversation will depend on you, but in general, you’ll want to do these few things:
- Make it easy for the person. Go to a location convenient for him, have a coffee (or tea) waiting, come prepared, and make the meeting no-pressure and comfortable.
- Spend time getting to know the person. You probably want to talk less than 30% of the time.
- Make a clear ask: “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Would it be okay if I followed up with you again in one month after I make some progress towards my goals?”
- Send an email afterwards to thank him.
- Create a structured accountability process with a mentorship agreement
After your first month as a mentee, try making a more formal request: would the person be willing to sit down with you once a month for the next six months until you have achieved your goal or solved your problems? If so, then consider creating a simple one-page document outlining what you will accomplish in those six months. While it might seem a bit overkill, it will help add clarity to you and your mentor by helping share the goal of the relationship.
Approaching a potential mentor can be a bit daunting. It’s important to remember that, while people are undoubtedly busy, being asked to be a mentor is a massive compliment. If the person politely declines, tell him that he does not have to answer straight away. Send him an outline of what you have in mind; provide him with a plan. In that way, the person will see that you have put thought into the mentorship and that his mentee will reap the rewards of his time investment.
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/01/how-to-build-a-great-relationship-with-a-mentor
Semantic Scholar: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Career-Benefits-Associated-with-Mentoring-for-A-Ghosh-Reio/424dafe26d70a781570e293fcc80eae6cf042149