9th October 2018

Finding a Mentor

Mentor: "A confidential advisor who can objectively help you to overcome your professional hurdles in order to meet your goals".

Having run my business Kaizen now for nearly three years I came to the conclusion that I would really benefit from having a mentor. It has been a great journey and, for the most part, I have enjoyed every minute, but it is isolating running a business on my own. I have had two meetings now with my mentor (who, incidentally, I have known and trusted for fifteen years) and, I must say, it has really helped. The key benefit has been to gain some perspective and help me get back in touch with my goals and the reasons I started Kaizen in the first place. I genuinely believe anyone can benefit from doing the same. All you need is a vision of where you at least think you want to be in your career/business, the drive to get there, and the confidence to seek counsel from whomever you deem inspirational and credible enough to help you. How can you find a career mentor?

What do you need help with? 

It is important that you start the process of finding a mentor by assessing your vision for your career or business. Ideally, where would you be in one year, three year and five years’ time? And what obstacles are standing in your way?

Don’t narrow yourself just to the skills you are yet to learn. Think bigger picture. Do you have a tricky relationship with a colleague or client, and is this hindering your progress? Is fear or a lack of confidence holding you back?

Remember, your chosen mentor will be someone you trust, therefore they will keep everything you say confidential, so don’t limit your thinking at this stage.

Assess who you know and think outside the box.

Once you have identified what it is you need help with, it’s time to find the right person to help you. Who in your life has overcome the obstacles that you are now facing? Are they where you aspire to be now? Who do you know who is just really good at the skill you want to develop or perhaps the job role you would like to do in the future? I chose someone that foremost I trust and secondly because he comes from my sector and has built businesses from scratch. When searching for your mentor, consider former and current colleagues, your friends and family as well as your other social and professional circles. The next step was speaking up and asking them for help.

Take a sincere and humble approach

The way you approach your potential career mentor will depend on the nature of your relationship. If they are a contact from your professional network, I would suggest telling them how they have inspired you, what specifically you think they could help you with, and politely asking if they could spare some time to sit down and chat. 

If this person is at your current organisation, I would also recommend that you run this by your line manager beforehand. They may be more familiar with your potential mentor, or have experience in mentoring themselves, and able to give you some pointers on your approach. The point is, your mentor needs to be outside of your direct line manager wherever possible.

Whoever your mentor may be, the key is to be humble and human. In my situation neither of us knew how much or little time this was going to take but as it has turned out, it is not a huge ask in terms of time commitment – and it has really helped me. Going forwards, we will meet on an ad hoc basis when I need their help and they are available to help me.  But establishing and maintaining this mentor – mentee relationship will take work, which brings me onto my fourth and final step.

Nurture the mentor – mentee relationship

Remember, your mentor is going out of their way to help you, therefore gratitude and respect is key to both establishing and maintaining this relationship. Note down the specific challenges you are facing, what it is you want to learn from them from this session and how you think they could help you. Share the progress you have made from previous sessions, and examples of this progress in practice.

Personally speaking, finding a career mentor has been one of the best decisions I have made, and is something every driven professional should pursue on their path to success.