Whether you read a career blog or a personal success book, they all predict the same thing: get yourself a mentor. A good mentor can introduce you to the people you like to meet, get you job opportunities and advise you on how to approach things. All the more reason to find yourself a mentor today. But how do you start? You cannot just approach anyone and ask to be your mentor. So here’s a step by step guide to get yourself the mentor you want.
Even if you already have someone in mind, you cannot skip this step. Picture yourself in 10 to 15 years. Think about where you want to be (NOT what you want to do unless you are absolutely sure). Then start listing the people who have reached that position and whom you admire. Note that they do not have to do the same job as you aim to do. Nor do they have to work for the same company.
Research the people on your list. Google them, look up their Linked In profile, find them in the company directory… Gather as much information about your future mentor(s) as possible. Find out how they got to the position they hold now. And track down their friends and enemies. You don’t want your supervisor to hate your mentor.
You can definitely have more than one mentor but you should limit yourself to 5 as the very maximum. A mentor is a time investment and you will need your time. Don’t pick similar persons. You want to learn unique things from each of them. If you pick multiple mentors, also make sure their advice can be tied together.
The most difficult part is to approach your future mentor. Of course you can send him an email to introduce yourself and explain what you want from them but personally, I’m not a big fan of this approach. So I designed my own approach:
- Find out the habits of the person you want to meet with. Does he always come in at 8AM and grabs a coffee? Then be at the coffee machine and have a chat about the weather. Or meet at a company drink. Make your first conversation a well-played coincidence.
- Have you exchanged a few words? Then try to get someone to introduce you. This way your future mentor will be more interested in you. First of all because he recognizes you, second because someone has taken the responsibility to introduce you to him.
- Offer to have lunch or a cup of coffee. Tell your future mentor you heard of him before and are interested in how he does things. He will be flattered that you have gone through the trouble. And because you didn’t just send him an email, which he can easily ignore, he probably will accept your invitation.
Always prepare for an appointment. List the subjects you want to discuss and the questions you’d like to ask. Think about the type of cases in which you would turn to your mentor for advice. Also, be able to clearly describe the time effort you would need from your mentor. If your future mentor is well aware of what will be expected from him, chances he says yes will increase.
- Follow up
Congratulations, if everything went well, you now have a mentor. However, you can never take your mentor for granted. This is a two-way relationship so you will have to invest too. Send your mentor a thank you for his time. Communicate the projects you are working on via email and try to set up a monthly coffee or lunch appointment. Remember that you need something from him, so it’s up to you to take initiative.