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How to find and keep a Mentor - Going down the relationship route

Posted: 15 July 2015

The value of the mighty mentor has stayed constant in these info-rich times. With a steady stream of expertise and insight flooding professionals on a daily basis, it's pretty nice to see that you can't replace first hand human experience. That said, finding and keeping a keen and generous source can be a tricky affair...

A massive part of this struggle can be down to the mentee. Too many think a mentor is something you get, not something you work for. So, how do you really source and, more importantly, keep a hold of a career-defining mentor? How can you build a mutually beneficial relationship that keeps both parties happy? Here’s our Mentor Musts to keep you straight.

The Mentor Map - How to find, keep and use your professional powerhouse

A chunk of work and effort needs to go into maintaining a mutually valuable relationship, something many mentees don’t quite grasp until it’s too late. If you as a mentee can do as much prep, soul searching and outside utilisation as possible pre-mentor involvement, you can maximise both your time and your potential advisors’.

  • Why do you want a mentor, and do you even need one?

It’s an important question that needs to be addressed right off the bat. A mentor isn’t a necessity or nice extra to have to hand, they offer and tick a specific box that you can’t tick any other way. Do you know what that box is? If you’re just looking to tap them for advice or info, research them first. They could have a know-all blog up that’s about exactly that. Ask yourself what your mentor and career goals are and be sure to consider if/how a mentor could actually help. What kind of time do you have to invest in this relationship? Via what means will you contact them? How you got specific problems you want them to help you with? Do they have a podcast, blog or tutorial series that could serve as an effective source of support?

  • Who do you want to mentor you?

Perhaps you have a specific person in mind to help you, be it a colleague, contact or admired professional. Why them? Your potential mentor will ask you that exact question so be sure to havethe answer to hand before you reach out. Don’t restrict yourself to professional in your field or industry, others outside it will have just as valuable insight and perhaps even more fitting experience and advice to offer. Every successful person has a unique story about how they got to where they are, research that journey before you target someone specific. Also, don’t be afraid to turn a respected source into a mentor. If you admire someone’s style or story, ask them to act as your mentor. Flattery goes a long way and just because they haven’t considered themselves a mentor until now doesn’t mean they can’t be one.

  • What’s the best way to ask?

There’s no right or wrong way, it all depends on the person. An email could work or perhaps a personalised letter or face-to-face meeting. Before you reach out be as fluent as you can in what makes your mentor unique and play to that. Perhaps you share specific values or have a mutual network pal? Get personal. Following up can be especially delicate with a mentor. Go in too keen and your new advisor could be put off and put out, hold back too much and they might think you’re not serious. The easiest way around this is to ask - how often can I contact you and via what means? Now you both have an expectation to meet.

  • Share your mentorship goals.

Let your mentor know exactly what you want from them, it’s the easiest and best way to keep them long-term. Honesty and gratitude are key to building the relationship you need to have so value their time and get your affairs in order before you bring them onboard. Set a weekly/monthly meeting and let them know in advance what info or advice you’d like to get your mitts on. Every meeting doesn’t need to be a regimented event but it puts you both in a position to get the most out of your time together.

  • Ask them what they want from this relationship.

Another way to ensure you stay connected is to make sure your mentor gets as much from you as you get from them. Don’t be scared to ask them why they want to mentor you. Maybe you have a talent for something they want to explore or perhaps you have a network they want to tap into. Outline the Why early on and make it clear that you see this mentorship as a two-way street. It’s this balance that breeds longevity.

  • Look for a teacher not just an advisor.

Mentoring is often synonymous with advice and insight as opposed to action. Try and select a mentor who can get hands-on and show, not just tell. You want to grow from this relationship and that means putting your talent and value to the test. Ask them to tutor you in software or for their editing eye, observing how your mentor works is a crazy useful peek into what makes them successful.

It might sound cheesy but building a great mentor-mentee relationship is key. Honesty, straight-forwardness, kindness, patience, respect and even friendship will all keep you tight knit and valued. None of these things comes from quick fixes or fleeting contact so approach your mentor search with an aim to create something long-term. You will not regret it.

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