We all embark on a professional-world journey and more often than not, we make that trip alone, which can be a daunting task, considering our entire educational career we had advisors and counselors but all failed on helping us understand how it truly applied to real life. Many had someone that could help guide their decisions and advice them on tough matters, but the other half, didn’t fare so well—especially when it comes to mentors.
When we get hired and take a job, we automatically think that our manager will also be our mentor, because why wouldn’t they want to see us succeed, right? But in the real world, that’s usually not the case. So we find ourselves on a solo path, which causes major frustrations and it feels downright alone. But it doesn’t have to be, not being assigned a mentor is a blessing in disguise because it means you’re in charge of finding them and you can tailor your experience from the get-to! Here are the 5 things your need to do to find your very own mentor.
1. Do your research: Grab a blank piece of paper and take some notes. Real notes. Who in your industry is doing the type of work that inspires you? Who is doing cool things and is someone that you would like be when you grow up? Once you have narrowed your list down to those top 2-3 individuals—get social.
2. Go Social: Take a look at their digital footprint and find tangible reasons why they’re destined to be your mentor. This is the perfect time to watch their presentations at conferences on YouTube, read their blogs and see how they operate in general. Are they more Twitter than LinkedIn? Or are they Snapchat buffs? After all, you want to be acquainted with the work they’re doing to ensure they are aligned to your career path. For example, I would not reach out to Meredith Gray, to mentor me given her expertise in general surgery, but I would love to tap into Kim Garst, social media maven.
3. Leverage your network: Before reaching out to your potential mentor, check to see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, always leverage your network first! They can put in a good word on your behalf and eliminate the jitters of reaching out cold. Even if you do not have any shared besties – you can still nail it!
4. Craft your message: Start by crafting a professional email, explaining why you’re reaching out and be upfront that you value their time and career path. Be very clear that you’re seeking a mentor and state the reasons why. Here is where you’ll share the tidbits you learned during your research and most importantly, find a way to connect them to you and your future. Keep in mind, that everyone is busy so the email should be as detailed as possible. Include expectations and time commitments. Often times, people shy away from mentoring others due to personal time constraints so if you’re flexible say it–explaining that you can meet once a month at Starbucks or via Skype/phone. Be open and flexible—it’s very important, when tapping into someone’s expertise because it’s you seeking their experience and knowledge. Many people want to know what is in it for them – so tell them what they will gain–an adoring fan and/or the opportunity for reverse mentoring.
5. Set your expectations: Realize that not everyone has mentored so keep those expectations in check.
While you’re waiting to hear back don’t stress if the response time is longer than you hoped. It’s totally appropriate for you to follow up with a phone call a few weeks later. Remember, you entered this request cold, so it could take a few attempts from you. This does not mean that they are not interested, but could mean they are busy with work, on travel, or even on a break. This is a time investment on their behalf so they could be busy researching you too. Next time you’re in the market for a mentor, keeping these 3 things in mind will allow you to go further in search.
Celinda Appleby is the Global Employer Branding & Recruitment Marketing Leader at Oracle and is currently mentoring 5 individuals.