Four Steps For Identifying a Professional Mentor

Four Steps For Identifying a Professional Mentor

A successful professional mentoring relationship can bring many benefits to both the mentor and mentee. Research by Gartner found that employees involved in a mentoring program are five times more likely to get promoted than those not in a program. Employees who serve as a mentor are six times more likely to get promoted than those who do not. Additionally, a study by CNBC and Survey Monkey found that 9 in 10 workers that have a mentor report being happy in their job. With the many benefits of a mentoring relationship, you might be wondering how to find and engage a potential mentor so you can reap the reward for yourself.

Professional mentorship has been around for many years and is still a staple of many businesses’ internal workforce strategies. In fact, a recent study by MentorcliQ found that 84% of Fortune 500 companies have established mentoring programs. Professionals who have access to these formal programs should take advantage of this opportunity. However, for employees who don’t work for an organization with a formal mentoring program, they may need to find a mentor on their own. This process can look different for employees based on their experience, industry, career level and goals, so what might work for one person, may not work for another. While some workers may have a mentoring relationship form organically, others may need to actively search for and identify a mentor on their own. Below, we’ve identified four steps to help you identify a professional mentor.

  1. Reflect on Your Goals and Identify Your Needs

The first place to start when thinking about identifying a mentor is to reflect on your career goals and the steps you need to take to reach them. For example, if your goal is to move into a different career path, you may select a different mentor than if you wanted to move up in your current role. Either way, an ideal mentor would be someone that has experience in the field/role you are in, or hope to get in, so that they can support you in navigating you career field and path.

Additionally, identifying the areas in which you would like to develop skills and knowledge can help you think about the qualities you want to look for in a mentor. This self-reflection will enable you to establish “criteria” for your mentor and keep you on track when researching for potential mentors. Thinking about your career goals, the steps needed to reach them and areas for development can also help shape your initial conversations with potential mentors as you are deciding if they are the right fit.

  1. Research Potential Mentors

When researching potential mentors, you’ll want to think about if you want that person to be inside or outside of your organization. Some things to consider when deciding this is if you prefer to advance your career within the company or not, if individuals in your organization possess the skills or experience you require in a mentor as well as the size of the organization.

Once you have an idea of this and have a solid understanding of the other criteria you’ve identified, reach out to those in your professional network for suggestions. Think about the people you’ve previously worked with in the past and your relationship with them. Additionally, utilize LinkedIn to research individuals’ titles, experience, industry and more. Write down a few individuals that have your desired traits and create a shortlist of those that you’d prefer to have as a mentor.

  1. Conduct Informal Interviews

Once you’ve identified a few individuals as potential mentors, it is a good idea to try to get some time with them to learn more and decide if they could be a good fit. Consider asking them to a brief coffee meet-up or booking 15-30 minutes on their calendar for a quick virtual meeting. Try to be flexible and respectful of their time, as they would be taking time out of their day to meet with you.

During this meeting, you should ask the individuals for additional information on their experience and learn more about their professional goals without being too formal. As this is introductory, you want to leave time to get to know who they are outside of work and see if you get along personally. If you leave the meeting with questions or needing additional information, consider asking them to meet again in the future. If they agree, come prepared with any unanswered questions. It is also a good idea to inquire about the individual’s schedule/availability to be sure they would have time for a mentoring relationship. The hope is that by the end of these informal interviews, you have a good idea of who will be the best mentor for you.

  1. Formally Ask

After identifying the best potential mentor, you should consider officially asking them. After meeting with them a few times, having this relationship formally established enables the mentor to understand their role in the relationship. When asking, agree on a cadence for meeting and keeping up with each other regularly. Discuss expectations, goals and make sure that the mentor is able to get what they need out of the relationship as well. Make sure your intent is clearly stated and explain why you think they are the best mentor for you.

If they say no, ask them for any referrals or suggestions, as they likely have connections that may also be a good potential mentor for you. Be respectful and understanding of their choice and consider offering ways to stay in touch that require less work, such as connecting on LinkedIn, or meeting up every six months for coffee. Either way, you want to get the most out of your journey to finding a mentor. Though it may require some work, it can be very rewarding in the end. One day, you will hopefully look back and reflect on this time and offer to be a mentor yourself!

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