Seek a Mentor
*Coincidental to my writing this series, the Harvard Business Review lists ‘getting a mentor’ as the number one resolution that aspiring leaders should make! Five Resolutions for Aspiring Leaders
If you’re serious about making wise decisions and improving your current position in your organization, it’s time to consider a mentor. So who exactly is a mentor? A cross between an ancient sage and a cool older brother? For all of you professionals, this is close, but not exactly. A mentor is a friend and a counselor who can be trusted. It’s usually a known and experienced advisor who shares wisdom and knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
What exactly will this mentor do? For you personally, a mentor will give you the “real deal” on how to steer and promote yourself within your company. Mentors may also share their personal influence, which can help you gain exposure and relationships. They can help you navigate the specifics of your organization with particular individuals inside and outside of the firm. Advice and assistance is especially valuable in that mentors are able to help you get included in meetings and work groups you are not typically involved. Mentors can help you develop a career strategy and help you understand your organization better.
Mentors are a career imperative! To navigate your career with success, to network, to draw the paths to your goals, mentors can help. Often, people seek mentors when they’re fresh out of college and new. I say that mentors are invaluable for anyone, whether they are looking to revive their current role, or seeking a promotion.
I advise my clients to seek a mentor and be a mentor.
First, seek a mentor. If you are interested in finding the right mentor, start looking at individuals in other parts of your organization. Understand who is there. Find out what they do, what their job is, who they influence and what other professional activities they participate in. Do your research and know why you are genuinely interested in them as mentor(s).
To approach a potential mentor, it might be helpful to start off by saying, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee and get ten minutes of your time? I’d appreciate hearing your point of view on the organization. Your perspective would be really beneficial to me.”
(Don’t be discouraged if they say no. Find another target.)
Where should you hold your meetings? I prefer meeting on neutral turf. Maybe the company campus early before work, a private conference room, an offsite location like Starbucks, even by phone.
What should you talk about? Come prepared with topics to explore, proposed solutions to problems you are facing, and questions. It is not the mentor’s job to be your solution, but instead to act as sounding board and guide for you.
Gaining momentum: After your initial meeting, you can ask, “Would you mind if I called you again in a couple of months?” You can do this a couple of times and tell him or her that you appreciate the time spent as your mentor. Express gratitude! Your mentor is investing in you.
A quality mentor will communicate, be respectful, honor a covenant of confidentiality, and provide thoughtful feedback. For your part, you should arrive on time when meeting (duh!), keep the relationship sacred, and be loyal. Hand-written thank you notes go a long way and are highly encouraged.
Be honest and appreciative, and your mentor will delight in your successes! Make a commitment today that you will create a short list of possible mentors to approach for 2012. Who will you ask?
Kelly Welch founder and president of YES Career Services is a veteran HR professional, is certified as: Personal Branding Strategist, Professional Resume Writer, Leadership and Career Management Coach, Online Identity Strategist, and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. Resourceful and creative, she is reputed for her dynamic insights and passionate commitment toward helping her corporate and private clients rebrand and position themselves for career success.