Are you in the market for a mentor? Maybe you’re feeling trapped or stuck in your career and need some nudges forward, or you’re looking for a change.
Mentors can be incredibly helpful for transition and growth, but how do you find a mentor? And when you find one, what do you do to help the relationship grow and thrive in a way that isn’t simply taking advantage of another person? Here are some quick questions to ask yourself before tapping into a mentor and things to do after you’ve identified the person you’re looking to chat with.
Coach or mentor?
This one is pretty simple – are you looking to get one thing (or a finite amount of things) done in a fairly quick amount of time, or do you want a long-term relationship with someone? Mentors offer their experience to someone with less experience; coaches will develop specific skills and goals in a finite time.
Another big difference? Mentors are generally not compensated. If you’re looking for someone to help you with a finite thing, and they do this for a living, you’re looking for a coach, and they will charge you, and you should pay for that service. This doesn’t make a coach better than a mentor; they are simply different.
Know what you’re looking for BEFORE you ask
As someone who has asked and been asked, please – know what you want before you reach out. Here’s a recent interaction:
Person: Hi! I would like to be mentored by you.
Me: Oh ok! What are some of your goals?
Me: Totally good, are you looking for help in a certain area?
Person: …I just want to be mentored by you.
Me: I just want to know what you’re looking to focus on to see if we’re a good fit. (Unsaid: because I’m really busy and I want to help you. I want to be sure I can help!)
Person: Oh, well – for everything.
This is frustrating! It’s like telling someone that you want to pick their brain. You don’t need to know all the things – but have an idea!
Ask in an email to set up a call
Do not just call or text someone. Please. This is a professional transaction, keep it as such! Send an email to ask for a time to set up a call. Very simple, and often overlooked! This indicates that you also respect their schedule and want them to help pick a time that works for both of you!
Keep the meeting time finite
It is really easy to let meetings go very, very long. Keep it set and keep it respectful. If you set an end time, stick to it. Yes, you’re going to have one more thing every time – this person has more experience than you, and it’s why you asked them to mentor you in the first place!
Be respectful of the time and asks
Since you’re going to be amazingly respectful on time during meetings, you can schedule a follow-up meeting – but not the next day.
Give some breathing time between meetings and ask your new mentor what seems like a good frequency. I find often that once a month or every other month is usually good for most people – let your mentor decide this one, and if they don’t have an opinion, aim for once a month unless it seems like too much.
Send a thank you
After your meetings, send a thank you. You do not have to throw a parade, spend a million dollars on a gift or anything like that – you do need to thank them for their time. Even a simple email is effective – and better than nothing.