“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John C. Crosby
Whether you are just starting out in your career or have accumulated decades of experience, mentoring has its benefits. For a young leader, there is the potential for personal and professional growth, the opportunity to widen your network and to gain more confidence. It’s also a cost effective way to learn from someone who has more experience. For a mentor, there is the opportunity to share the things they’ve learned through their years of experience, and to make a positive impact on someone’s life.
What is Mentoring?
According to Dr. Bruce Gordon, an executive consultant, there is a difference between a consultant, a coach, and a mentor.
- A consultant takes a problem or challenge you have, and gives you a solution that you can execute. They are paid for their expertise and input.
- A coach has your goals in mind and will ask you the right questions so that you can figure out the solution to your problems and challenges. In this type of relationship, both work together for you to gain value.
- A mentor is a sounding board. You can come to your mentor with your thoughts, problems, challenges, and your mentor will give you feedback. As a mentee, you are responsible for gaining value out of your time together.
How to find a mentor
Make a list of potential mentors. This list can be separated into different categories depending on which areas you are looking for mentoring in – spiritual growth, professional advice, leadership, etc. These can be your acquaintances or a person that someone in your network knows; be strategic in your choices and think through the people you have access to through your network. Once you contact your potential mentor or have gotten an introduction to them, it’s fairly easy to get a one-time meeting, but harder to move that into a longer-term mentoring relationship. Some things you might want to consider when setting up that first meeting:
- Be clear about what you want
- Be willing to meet them at their convenience (time and place)
- Be sensitive about their time (ask how much time they have)
- Research all you can about your mentor before you meet them
- Prepare a list of questions
- Make sure you guide the conversation (if your mentor doesn’t know what you’re interested in learning, they’ll just talk). It is up to you to gain the most value from your time.
- Always offer to pay
- Write a thank-you card (or email), specifically thanking them for what value you gained from their time
It’s a good idea at your initial meeting to get to know your potential mentor first. Ask good questions about their expertise, and let them know what you’re doing with your life. Engaging them in good conversation and making it a good experience for them will improve your chances of extending your one-time meeting into on-going relationship.
At the end of your time together, you should both be able to clearly state the difference your mentor has had on your life. A good mentoring experience will bring value to both the mentor and the mentee.