(This post is part of Career Tips blog series)
I cannot stress enough how important mentorship is, but sadly, so many of us are unaware or do not pay enough attention to that. “Yes you are smart and incredible. Just that many people have lived before us too, we can tap on their knowledge and resources so that we can learn faster.” I don’t remember where did I read this, but I fully agree with it. We don’t have to reinvent the wheels, having guidance from mentors is exactly how we can shortcut to success. Yes, not all shortcuts are bad.
A mentor is someone who can share with us their experience, expertise and knowledge; sometimes but not necessarily also be our advocate at work. Who should be our mentor then? There are of course a lot more factors but in my opinion, these are the three main things to consider.
1. Has done and achieved the results you want
Never listen to people who haven’t achieved the things that you are going after. Learn from people who have the relevant experience, not just any kind of experience. If you want to be a great investor, learn from a great investor, not a great marketing lead.
2. Has great reputation
If majority of people around you have great words toward this person, that should be a quite a safe bet. If mixed reviews, then maybe not.
3. Is willing to nurture next generation talents
If we ask other people to be our mentors, basically we are asking them to spare us their valuable time. If they are not the kind of person who is willing to grow others, don’t bother approaching.
The next question is how to recruit them?
1. Start with people you already know
Within your network, is there someone considered as a good choice? It is a little far fetch to go after people outside of your network, but of course you can give it a try!
2. Start with small engagements
Do not immediately ask them to be your mentors. Imagine if you are hiring, do you offer someone a job immediately? No. You want to do background check and interview the person first. Same thing for recruiting your own mentors, meet them in person and subtly interview them first. Make sure you are both right fits to each other before proceeding to formalizing mentorship.
3. Form mentorship unofficially
Mentorship may not need to be something official, it can start unofficially first. Ask their permission if you want to share some updates with them, ask their feedback for your situations, ask them if you could meet more regularly.
4. Ask to be your mentor
After the unofficial phase and you do think both click and add values to each other, ask them to be your mentors. This is not mandatory, if both are already holding each other accountable.
Once you have your mentor on-boarded, what do you do?
1. Discuss career development plan
We talked about having a career development plan earlier. Discuss this with your mentor, get his/her feedback and inputs.
2. Discuss how would you like to meet each other
In person? Over video call? How regular?
3. Share updates and get feedback
During each catchup, share 3 things: what you discussed last time, what you had done since last meetup and what you plan to do next. Come with an agenda rather than a casual chat, their time is valuable so as yours.