Going it alone is a myth. A well-supported, highly praised myth but a myth nonetheless. While education, training and good ol’ gumption are great, it often is not enough. In this highly competitive world, we need individuals in our corner who can provide guidance and consistent support. This is where mentors come in. But where to start? Answer the three questions below to take level up your career with the perfect mentorship:
Why Do I Need A Mentor?
Before seeking out a mentor, it is important to understand why you need one. And not just the reasons experts and blog writers *ahem* recommend mentorship, but the reasons based on your goals and needs. Think about your blind spots, weaknesses, skills you would like to improve or knowledge you wished you had. Consider how you process information, how you communicate and what factors increase or decrease your enthusiasm. Then reflect on both your personal and professional goals. Even if you are focused on career growth, ignoring personal needs will inevitably interfere with your progress. Once you have an understanding of how a mentor can help you, it is time to find your own sensei.
Who makes a good mentor?
Personalities, industry experience and individual success play a large role in choosing a mentor. Clashing personalities complicate communication, making learning difficult. If your goal is to become a VP of a large firm, an artist may not be a beneficial mentor. And while success is important, do not allow achievements to dictate your choice. Find someone who has the ability to impart knowledge to someone else. Search for individuals that can be objective and fair, who have keen emotional intelligence and are willing to offer feedback and support. Look beyond the achievements and assess whether they can help you achieve.
How do I get a mentor?
Now that you know what you need and who can provide it, it’s time to make a move. Establishing a mentorship can feel a bit like starting a romantic relationship. You’re nervous, a bit queasy, unsure of how to approach for fear for rejection. The best solution is to simply go for it. Stop imagining what could go wrong and focus on the benefits. Remember you miss all the shots you do not take.
Now that you are pumped (whoo!), its time to make your move. Be clear and specific in your approach. Explain why you are asking and what you expect out of the relationship. Establish the “rules of engagement.” Determine best methods for communication, specific lessons you would like to learn and how you like to receive feedback. While this may feel awkward, it is important that everyone is on the same page to create the best relationship possible. And just in case you needed some more encouragement, here is a list of highly successful people who had mentors:
- Oprah Winfrey was mentored by Maya Angelou
- Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs
- Former Morehouse college president Dr. Benjamin Mays mentored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Ray Charles mentored Quincy Jones
- Warren Buffet mentored Bill gates
Remember that a mentorship is a relationship built on trust and support. This requires open, honest communication from both parties. Additionally, both mentor and mentee must be willing to nurture the relationship. Mutual respect and understanding is a must. Do not make it all about you and your needs. Search for opportunities where you can be helpful and be respectful of your mentor’s time. If nurtured, you can achieve unparalleled success.