Good mentors give us sound advice, help us make valuable professional connections, and provide us with opportunities that may be out of reach on our own. My mentors have done all these things. One of my favorite mentors often says, “I’m giving you my shoulders so you can stand on them.”
As the founder of Butterfly Dreamz, one of the ways I help young women grow as leaders is by connecting them to the right mentors. We know mentors are valuable. So, how do we go about finding them? Here are three tips.
1. Get Involved
Put yourself in spaces with people you admire. If you are interested in the finance industry, try to get an internship at a bank. Your boss or co-worker could be your next mentor. If you are interested in writing, attend a writing workshop or take a writing course. More advanced students or your instructor are both potential mentors. You could also meet mentors by volunteering or attending public events related to your professional interests. The important thing is to get involved. Put yourself out there and start meeting the people you admire!
2. Set a Target and Shoot Your Shot
Create a target list of potential mentors — people who you look up to in your field and would like to mentor you. Your list should include two things: the person’s name and how you’d like them to help you. For example, maybe you would like a professor at a university to review your personal statement before you submit it or maybe you would like a manager at a company to take a look at your resume before you apply for a job. It’s important to know how you want them to assist you so you can answer confidently when they ask, “how can I help?”
After you’ve made your target list, shoot your shot! Send them an email and ask them if they have 30 minutes to connect. I would recommend saying something like, “I’m really inspired by the work you do and would love to learn more about your career journey. I’m interested in_______ and am trying to learn as much as possible about the field.” I don’t recommend asking for help when you first reach out to a potential mentor. You need to connect first, feel their vibe, and then decide if they are the right person to mentor and help you. Everyone on your target list will not be your next mentor.
3. Build a Relationship
When I first started my career, I was so eager to find mentors and set up meetings with important people who I thought could help me meet my goals. During one summer as an investment banking intern, I reached out to every African American executive in the firm and asked them if I could have 30 minutes of their time. I had a list, and I was checking it off — one by one. Almost a decade later, I look back and none of those people are in my life. In fact, none of them became mentors because I was approaching our connection as a task on my list, rather than as a relationship to build.
What I have learned is that finding a mentor and growing with her/him, is much like finding and growing with a new friend. It’s a relationship that takes time, mutual respect, and mutual value. Every mentor who is in my life now, I also consider them a valuable friend. I try to add value to their life, just as they add value to mine. Although I am not able to help them in the same ways they help me, I do try to be helpful, whether that’s by giving my opinion on something, just checking in, or sending them an article or resource that I think would be useful or interesting to their work. Remember, everyone is not meant to be your mentor just like everyone is not meant to be your friend. Once you find the right one, keep in mind that you are building a relationship, not looking for a sponsor.
Need help finding a mentor?
If you are a middle or high school girl looking for a mentor, check out our Girls Club. If you decide to join, we’ll talk with you about your goals and help you find the right mentor. Girls Club membership is also open to college and professional women interested in serving as mentors. We would love to welcome you to our community of leaders!