Formal mentoring programs are on the rise in both established organizations and startups. Even so, not all organizations have caught up with the trend, and it can still be difficult for many employees to identify and approach a senior colleague or business associate for mentorship.
If a mentor isn’t chosen for you, how do you go about identifying one who is a good fit? And if you are able to pick someone you’d like to work with, how do you go about asking him or her to be your mentor?
These are important questions to ask, even for organizations with established mentoring programs or digital mentoring opportunities. Employees should understand the qualities of a good mentor, how a mentor’s experience and skills are matched with their career goals, and how to conduct themselves when first requesting mentorship.
First things first: How do you identify the right mentor?
As with any search for talented resources, the first place to look is within your own organization. Think about the people you work with: Is there someone whose work you admire? Have you noticed anyone who is particularly fond of giving advice and sharing lessons they’ve learned? Is there a colleague whose role within the company resembles a position you’d eventually like to hold?
Answering these questions in respect to the colleagues and associates you are already familiar with can give you a good idea of who may be a good fit. In the process, you’ll gain a better understanding of what you want out of a mentorship, what personalities you work best with, and what your aspirations are. By the time you are ready to approach a colleague for mentorship, you’ll have a strong case to present for why you want them as your mentor.
Now for the real deal: How do you ask someone to be your mentor?
In a company with an established mentorship program in place, this part should be easy. It’s either done for you through systematic mentor/mentee matching, or there are established vehicles for requesting mentorship from colleagues who have already elected to be mentors.
But what if none of that exists in your organization? The process can be a bit trickier. But that doesn’t mean it can’t (or shouldn’t) be done.
If a mentor candidate is someone you already work closely with, ask him or her to meet with you or schedule a lunch. Make sure you’ve prepared a good case when you propose working together as a mentor/mentee and be able to give them a clear idea of what your goals are for the mentorship. It’s possible—likely, even—that they’ve never mentored anyone before and may need a little help from you in understanding what you expect from them.
If you’ve identified someone who works within the company but not directly with you, then you can approach your manager and tell them you are interested in working with this person as a mentor. Ask your manager if they’ll organize a joint meeting with your candidate to introduce the idea of a mentorship and discuss particulars.
This approach gives your potential mentor an opportunity to ask questions of both you and your manager about your skill-set, goals for advancement, and availability for participating in a formal mentorship. It also brings your manger into the loop, showing them not only that you wish to enhance your skills and advance your career, but that you recognize and want to benefit from the talent existing within the company.
Mentoring has had overwhelming success within organizations, resulting in greater job satisfaction, higher compensation, stronger career commitment, a higher rate of promotion, and more overall career success. Don’t let the absence of a formal mentorship program stop you from engaging in what could be one of the most beneficial relationships of your professional and personal life.
If this post resonated with you, check with your organization to see whether you are part of the MentorCloud network. If not, sign up for a demo here! Our vision is to create a mentoring planet in which true equality is achieved and hard work is rewarded, but it's only possible with your participation.