I have about 10 mentors.
In my personal and professional life, I have a ton of people that I go to for help, advice and wisdom. I firmly believe that mentorship is the single-most important thing to growing in life and career. It's helped me mature in leadership skills, in relationships, in vision for the future. Personally, I feel that finding solid mentorship is more important than a degree. It's more important than any certification program. And it's more important than any self-help book.
It's kind of a big deal.
So find some real people to have real human conversations with where you can learn from their real life experiences - positive and negative. This, my friends, is the key to success.
Today, I want you to start scoping out a mentor. Find someone who is going to pour into you. Someone who is more seasoned and willing to "show you the ropes", so to speak. And if you have been in an industry for a long time, return the favor. Mentor some younger folks. We need people like you to share the valuable knowledge you have!
In the meantime, here are some things you need to know about finding a career mentor:
You don't have to have an awkward conversation about it.
Okay you've found someone who you think might be a good mentor. Maybe they are someone who is a couple levels above you. Or maybe even someone who is around your age, but recently got promoted. Maybe it's even someone who is a legend in your industry. Whoever it is, now you have to figure out: How do I ask them to be my mentor?!
Well, I don't think it has to be so complicated. I think you just merely shoot them an email, a LI message, whatever form of communication makes the most sense to you - and say:
[insert some personal commonality between the two of you; ie: alma mater, career trajectory, hobby, article they were featured in]
I'm looking to expand my network and really admire the work that you've done over the years. Would you mind if I treated you to coffee to learn more about [something specific, intelligent and thought-provoking - not just "your career history."] I'm sure you're very busy, so no worries if you can't!
Looking forward to hearing back,
P.S. [Something else charming - aka don't be a professional robot]
Short. Simple. Specific. Custom. That's the key. Don't make it weird. You don't have to say "WILL YOU BE MY MENTOR?" I have quite a few people I consider my mentors and never asked them officially if they'd be mine. This isn't like you're about to DTR with a boyfriend or girlfriend, so quit putting so much pressure on it! A mentor is merely someone you admire, seek counsel from and go to for advice. It's a relationship. And the first step to building a relationship?
You don't have to stick with your gender.
So this may be a bit controversial, but I don't care. I do not think that if you are a female you need a female mentor. In the same instance, if you are male, you don't have to only be counseled by a male mentor. Are there benefits to it? Of course. But at the same time, only seeking advice from someone from your same gender means you may be missing out on some GREAT people.
Some of my best mentors have been male. Actually most of mentors and seniors leaders have been male and I soak up their advice. They are wise. They are thoughtful. And they give advice that is in my best interest as well. Now, whether male or female - THAT is what you should be looking for. Don't get caught up in the gender.
Get caught up in the character of the potential mentor.
You should have a mentor inside your company AND outside.
This goes along the same lines as building your network, keeping up with past colleagues and continually growing in your career regardless of if you're trying to find a new job. When I started working at The Muse in a new sales position, I often went back to my old boss at the NYSE for advice. At the same time, I was growing my network and landed a senior sales leader as a mentor to help me with the transition. AND I was consistently being mentored by more seasoned sales folks within in my company. Win-win.
Having a mentor inside the company is imperative to growing within the organization - you need someone to be your champion, someone who is in a position to advocate for you when it comes time for promotions and new opportunities. My first manager at The Muse was amazing at that. He was a true leader and always had my best interest in mind. At the same time, I had external mentors who were able to help me sift through some of the things in the office that were going on (because let's face it every company has their quirks). I didn't want to gossip (and you shouldn't either!), so having a third party to bounce ideas off of, chat with about frustrations and seek counsel on the best way to handle tough situations was crucial. It kept me grounded, focused and didn't let my fleeting frustrations create more office tension.