Whenever I start a blog post, I try to write it from my own experience, and not regurgitate several other blogs you can find online by searching the title. Usually, this is an easy task because I feel like I have enough to say about a topic. However, I'm going to be completely honest here and state right from the start of this blog that I have only ever 'found a Mentor' once.
So here is how I went about it. I would certainly encourage you to do some more research on this in order to get a good idea of what will work best for you. Please bear in mind that when I chose my Mentor, the Mentoring Programme that I've spoken of on this website did not yet exist. I will talk about choosing a Mentor within a programme, in a later blog.
Who do you want?
I was very lucky in my job to work with/under some really accomplished and experienced colleagues, most of whom would and hopefully will make excellent Mentors. This was actually one of the reasons why I knew creating a Mentor Programme at work would be a good idea, because there was a strong pool of people to help many potential Mentees in their career. With this being said though, I only had one Mentor in mind. Martin was one of our directors, and although we didn't work closely together, I really respected his hard work, his positive but honest energy, and his approachable nature. I knew I needed a Mentor that wasn't overly professional or serious all the time, because I like to throw in humour where possible and I didn't regard myself as overly professional either. I also knew that I needed to trust my Mentor, and Martin struck me as someone who would listen without judgement.
When you are choosing your Mentor, remember to look outside of the place you work as well. You may have worked with someone a few years ago that would make an excellent choice - don't discount them just because you or they moved on and you've gone in different directions. You may not have even worked with this person, you may know of them through networking or they might even be a personality in the industry you work in. Make sure you've considered all options when making your decision.
I am a big fan (and find it a great way to make a decision) of sleeping on it, and although I knew that Martin was the right choice, I definitely spent a few days considering alternatives and making sure I wasn't selling anyone else short. I thought about one other director who I knew I could learn a lot from, but I didn't think that we had the right relationship already in place to be confident that this would work. The advice I gave myself and the advice I would now give you, is to imagine what that first meeting will be like. When I thought about my first meeting with this other person, it made me very nervous and I couldn't see the conversation between us being completely open or honest. That told me all I needed to know.
Will they say yes?
Even though my choice was simple, I still had to think about the choice they would have to make, because I am not a huge fan of rejection. Just because I wanted him to take on this role in my life, that didn't necessarily mean he would want to. I had already built a good working relationship with him so he at least knew my name - always a good start! What made me confident that he would want to be my Mentor was the way he had already been looking out for me at work. He would often check in with me, take the time to ask me what was new, and send me the occasional email praising my good work. It's always a boost to have someone in your corner! I thought, if he is already invested in me, why wouldn't he say yes to continuing this investment?
Make sure that the person you are asking has a track record of taking an interest in your career and your progress. My Mentor was employed at the same place I worked at so I saw and spoke to them on a semi-regular basis, but yours might be working at a different company as you. A really good way to judge if they will say yes is to look at how they've been staying in touch with you. Perhaps this is via the occasional 'like' on LinkedIn, or you might exchange emails or catch up every now and again for a drink. Chances are, if you haven't seen or spoken to your choice for 6 months or longer, things might not work out.
All of this of course assumes that your chosen Mentor is not a stranger. There are certainly benefits to Mentoring between strangers, but this is something that requires some research from both you and I. It's an area of Mentoring that I am really interested in learning more about, so whilst I encourage you to explore all Mentoring options, I can't yet advise on this one in good faith.
How do you ask them?
This is a choice that is completely personal to you, so even though emailing my choice worked out well, you might consider a phone call or a face-to-face conversation. However you chose to ask though, make sure you are really clear about your reasons for seeking a Mentor, why you've chosen them, and your aims and goals for the relationship.
One thing that we put a huge focus on in our Mentoring Programme at work was the aims and goals of the Mentee, and making sure that the Mentor was clear on what was expected of them, both content and time wise. Your choice for Mentor might not say yes if they don't know what it is you want from them or how often you want it. You could take the s.T.A.R approach to your 'proposal'. Talk to your choice about your current situation in your career, highlight the challenges you might be going through or that you can foresee in the future, suggest the areas you want to work on, and end with how you think your Mentor can help you and why. If all of the above is clear and makes sense to your Mentor, then you should get the answer you are looking for. This approach will also create some strong foundations for your Mentoring relationship, and you should find that your first meeting is a success as a result.
Suggest a good time frame for meetings during this conversation as well. My Mentor and I met for about 90 minutes, once a month for about 4 or 5 months, and exchanged occasional emails and 5 minutes catch up chats during the working day. We were both quite open from the start and I was very confident that my Mentor would give me the time I needed wherever possible.
As far as how you work your question, you can go for 'will you be my Mentor?' like I did, or you can be a bit more subtle and mention that you'd like to get a drink and talk about your choice's career and experience. I think this will be reflective of the relationship you already have with your choice, so make sure you judge this correctly.
If you do choose email as your means of communication like I did, just be aware that this will result in a waiting period. I'm not a huge fan of waiting, so I did find this a little difficult and I did second-guess my choice. If this sounds like something that you might not deal well with, I would encourage a face-to-face discussion, or a phone call if this isn't possible.
Assuming that your choice says yes and is now your Mentor, it's time to get started! I'll talk more about what that might look like in another blog, so sign up to Enhance Mentoring's newsletter below to find out when it's live! If you have any thoughts or questions about this blog, please comment below and start a discussion.