Mentors can be essential to your career. You can’t just take anyone, however. You need to identify, approach, and maintain mentoring relationships carefully. Here’s how.
Listener Mick writes in:
“I am about to reach out to some senior people in my organization to get mentorship. How can I be sure that I am using the right people and, more broadly, how can I set up the mentoring relationship to succeed?”
Mentors, I just love mentors! They’re chewy and taste great and they explode if you put them in Diet Coke. Oh, I’m thinking of Mentos. I love those, too. But I also love mentors nonetheless. Mentors can help accelerate your career tremendously. A mentor is someone with experience in the realm you’re dealing with, be it a company, an industry, or a difficult situation. A mentor typically gives you guidance, acts as a sounding board, and sometimes actively helps promote you inside or outside an organization.
Select an Unbiased Mentor
When looking for a mentor, you want someone who can be unbiased and has no conflict of interest with you and your agenda. For example, if you work in a very political encironment and you choose your boss as your mentor, your desire to have her fired and take over her job could be at odds with her desire to turn you into a mindless wage slave who exists only to fetch her coffee. If your mentor’s project competes with yours for budget, headcount, status, recognition, or customers, it can also cause problems.
Select a Mentor With Appropriate Experience
Let’s be honest for a moment, just the two of us. We’d all like to choose the mentor who has the coolest car, washboard abs, and a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, spousal equivalent, or polyamorous family unit who’s so gorgeous they don’t need airbrushing.
Know what guidance you want from your mentor, and choose a mentor who has expertise in that area. If you’re an up-and-coming restaurant manager for Ashley’s Drippin‘-Lickin’-Good Deep Fried Popsicles with entrepreneurial ambitions of someday starting your own restaurant group, you might be looking for a mentor in any of several areas:
Career advancement within Drippin‘-Lickin’-Good
Becoming a prominent thought-leader in the restaurant industry
Entrepreneurship in franchised chains