Mentor; someone who can help guide, advice and direct you, in both your personal and professional life. Someone who can open doors, navigate a path and help you see things in a different way.
A mentor doesn’t have to be someone in the same field as you, but is someone who is happy to share their journey with you, help to guide and coach you and not be afraid to criticise constructively or be honest about feedback. You should look for a mentor that slightly stretches you.
If you are still studying, you may not have had a mentor relationship as yet, however don’t discount the benefits of a mentor until you have the tried the opportunity. A mentor can:
- Open your mind to new ways of thinking
- Opens the door to contacts and networks
- Help you develop skills you may be lacking
- Help you map a career path and trajectory
- Motivate and drive you
- Be someone to look up to, respect and model your next steps on
- Help you overcome problems or complexities in regards to study or work
- Explain corporate cultures and values and how to act in these environments
- Help develop your self-confidence and self- esteem
- Help you develop your leadership skills
- Help you feel more comfortable to develop relationships with other leaders
How do I find a mentor?
Seeking out a mentor is not as simple as finding someone you admire or respect and asking “Will you be my mentor”? Your approach should be quite the opposite. Absolutely, you want to seek out someone who you admire, respect or someone who has reached the goals you are aiming for; however your approach is the most important part of the engagement process. Aim to build the relationship from the ground up, find common ground, interests and most of all find someone that you can truly get along with. Get to know the person well enough to decide if this mentor- mentee relationship is going to work. From there it will be a natural progression into mentorship if you work at it. A great mentor relationship starts to occur naturally and progresses into guidance and before you realise, presto- you have a mentor!
Not all of us are blessed with having a mentor at arms reach, often you have to do some research to find who to connect with. Before you start researching, ensure you know who you are looking for. Then consider the traits and personality types you may work with best.
There are many different places to start your search, we have listed some below:
Attend industry events like lunches, seminars, talks and conferences.
Join community groups which reflect your interests or aspirations.
Use your networks and ASK people if they could introduce you to someone who may fit the bill. Think family, friends, colleagues, lecturers or parents of your friends.
Head online- a great place to start is by looking for industry specific groups and joining an online community. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are also extremely helpful by either running searches or looking for people who are already contacts within your broader network. Once you find someone, simply get in touch and ask questions- you will be SO surprised how open and willing to help people truly are.
Here are some great tips from Kerry Hannon about finding a mentor.
Now I’ve found a potential mentor- how do I turn them into a mentor from a contact or friend?
As we mentioned earlier, generally this doesn’t happen overnight and a potential mentor doesn’t simply ask you “Would you like me to mentor you?” Aah.. if only it were that easy. The foundation for any such relationship needs to be built on trust, mutual respect, integrity and the equal desire to grow, learn and help another person. Don’t forget mentors gain a lot from your relationship too, including a value of self-worth, the pleasure and graciousness to see their mentee succeed and to give back to society as a whole. Most humans, regardless of age or experience genuinely love to help others also giving back and paying it forward where they feel a sense of success because of others who helped them.
Work on your mentor partnership like any new relationship you would want to develop and remember a mentor has the right to decline your engagement if they feel you aren’t invested or they can’t help you. The lesson here to ensure you display your drive and ambition and show you’re open to development and growth.
Once you develop an operating rhythm (meaning how often you meet with an agenda), ensure you commit to your regular catch-ups. Research and think of questions and information you are after so you are prepared. Don’t expect things of your mentor- such as helping get you a job offer or that they have all the magical answers. This may come eventually, but don’t hold it as an expectation. Mentors are providing an invaluable experience to you for your growth and development, don’t forget that.
A few key points to remember:
⇒A mentor may be in your life for a short time or a lifetime. So make the most of every opportunity.
⇒You can have more than 1 mentor in your life. This can be valuable when you are looking for support in different areas of your life.
⇒Remember a mentor is volunteering their time as well as emotional and mental input so don’t take advantage of this exceptional relationship.
⇒The global expectation is that a mentee (that’s you) should drive the relationship, not the other way around.
⇒Put in effort- a mentor wants to help a younger/ less experienced/ ambitious version of themselves, so if they don’t see you put in the effort to prepare, take on their advice and take action from that advice, you might find yourself mentor-less.
⇒If you don’t feel your mentor relationship is working out, don’t keep it going as it can simply damage a potential friendship or valuable relationship in your network. It’s not like a boy/ girl friend- just end it!
⇒Your mentor should not have a direct reporting relationship to you- such as a boss or manager.
⇒Once you develop a strong bond, don’t think it’s perfect and stop working on it. Keep nurturing and work on your relationship to ensure it is as fruitful and beneficial to both parties as possible. Who knows the potential insights or opportunities your mentor may present to you (even though you can’t expect them)
Below is a few helpful links to mentor websites, online mentor access and book recommendations.
The Naked CEO book by Alex Malley is right on the money for anyone about to start out in the workplace and to top it off you have direct access to Alex as a mentor via the Ask Alex part of the website. UCGR has read the book and highly recommends it to all students.
Martin Yate, in his book “Knock ’em Dead- Secrets to Strategies for Success in an uncertain world outlines the key criteria for choosing mentors
After reading this blog, Undercover Grad Recruiter’s goal is to ensure you take action, start researching, looking for a mentor and engaging! Don’t wait and think there is a perfect time to get out there, because there is no time like the present.
Bon chance with your mentor journey.
UC Grad Recruiter