9 Easy Ways You Can Find a Kick-Ass Mentor
Most women I have met with recently are talking about mentorship. They crave it, hunger for it and don’t know where to look. For the longest time, I was certainly lost as well. I wanted a mentor who understood what it meant to actually mentor and wanted to find that mentor almost as easily as I could find a new favorite restaurant on Yelp. Meaning, I would be able to look up anonymously on a search platform for a possible connection to someone who was willing to invest in me, help me overcome career challenges, grow professionally, AND possibly provide a woman’s perspective on what it’s like to lean in together, working in the tech industry or business world.
So where to turn?
First let’s get some common misconceptions of mentoring out of the way so you know exactly what to look for and can identify it when you begin your search for or a relationship with your mentor:
- Mentoring is not just about you — successful mentor relationships are always a 2-way street.
- Don’t wait for a mentor to find you.
- Mentorship is active and you have to hold yourself accountable.
- Mentorship can happen organically, but you have to nurture it.
While I could literally write about each of these bullet points, this article is meant to help you find a mentor with as little pain as possible, so let’s get down to it.
1. Comb Your Network for Someone You Want to Emulate.
Make a list of the qualities, set of strengths or skills you want to emulate from a mentor and spend some time first scouring your network of who you know might fit this list, or who your network may know and can connect you with. Go outside your cubicle or work environment and don’t restrict yourself.
Mentors can be found in a variety of places. Seek out mentors at business and women’s associations in your area, non-profit organizations, your college or university, within your family, church groups, even community groups such as business chambers of commerce.
This part will take some time so be patient and keep calm as they say. You may have at first several candidates before you commit to a single mentor.
2. If you sign up on a platform, make sure the platform provides actual value and pairs you with a good mentor.
There are lots of platforms out there but my favorite is Mentorkind because they are geared towards helping women and minorities. One of the other reasons why I have found mentorship to be successful with Mentorkind is they actually think of mentorship as something you do versus something you get -disrupting a common misconception when people think of when being mentored properly.
If you are still unsure of a platform for mentorship pairing, dial it back to the basics and review what you are looking for. I recommend these 10 things that can help narrow your search. Joel Patterson has a great recommendation to focus on integrity in your search.
3. Attend events.
Don’t restrict yourself to online tools or exhaust your network. Try instead getting outside of your cubicle, away from your laptop or heck, do something other than Netflix expecting things to just happen and get out there. Great mentors can be found at a variety of places so try attending events that align with your passion or interest.
Mentorkind offers great speaker events around the San Francisco area, bringing together speakers who are passionate about career development and diversity & inclusion. The ExpatWoman meetups and Girls in Tech also have local SF chapters for those of you who hustle in the Bay Area, otherwise Meetup is always a good place to look for those with shared interests in your area.
Ultimately, even if you are an introvert, you want to be open and increase opportunities for meaningful connections or finding a possible mentor. Going to live events can help you open up in that way, and it’s always great to get an in-person feel for your potential mentor.
4. Study people and when ready, make the ‘ask.’
If you like to people watch, research, or are an uber-planner, this is most likely a familiar avenue for you to start looking for a mentor. Follow those whom you admire, study their blogs and social media activity or public persona projects. Try to understand your potential mentors’ strengths and weaknesses as you study them.
When you feel ready be careful how you make the ask. Don’t just flat out ask “would you like to be my mentor?” That’s a huge ask and can come off too strong, especially for a first meeting. Instead, ask for some advice on a specific issue you’re currently facing or to meet informally and remember to keep it short (I recommend less than an hour). Come prepared with follow-up questions but let the conversation flow naturally. During this time you may want to make note of their communications style if you haven’t already before the meeting.
5. Press into your relationships from networking, commit to the process.
This is pretty much as simple as it gets. Follow up with the people you’ve met, stay in contact with past co-workers, teammates, and friends — it’s easier to build on a good existing relationship. You’ll find this is where your mentor will emerge organically. Most often you won’t even need to make the ask.
6. Check your coachability and passion.
This is an interesting one, and I’ll admit sometimes I come off too passionate. Trust me, that is possible! Essentially here you want to show that you have promise and you are willing to hear good feedback, be flexible enough to pivot or change course, and overall, be willing to push yourself to do better. When you show someone you are open or ready to receive feedback, you demonstrate as a mentee that you are coachable.
Mentors want to see if you — a potential mentee — are open enough to absorb their initial feedback fully, are passionate, and can hold yourself accountable before they even decide to mentor you.
When does coachability become most visible? When we are passionate about something we are working on.
7. Surround yourself with good people — be selective.
Mentorship comes from a lot of places. Aside from having the goal of seeking out a mentor, start to seek out people in general who are willing to help you get closer to finding out what drives you, where your strengths and talents lie, and want to see you succeed. Sometimes these people are role models early on in our careers, or just successful women we’ve seen in organizations or the public sphere. You can also seek out sponsors or champions, who can do a lot more for you than you could ever do on your own.
I personally love to meet other female founders and CEO’s who are following their own passions, getting out there and working their asses off. But I am selective about who I choose to open that communication line with to start building those relationships. I make sure that they themselves have similar values or work ethics to myself and I would even go to say, define personal success in a way that I do. I study how they are connected to others and build relationships. Women tend to err on the modest side so often that it is more so our champion or sponsor who is talking about how great or talented we are. And gals, we need these cheerleaders in our back pocket. So fill that pocket wisely with people you entrust to be your cheerleader.
8. Be open to serendipitous opportunities.
This is my favorite tip on how to find a mentor. It’s so not by the book and that’s what I love about it. I hear too many stories where this rings true for mentees. It was the serendipitous moments in which they met their mentor. They were always searching for one thing like a job and what came as the result was one of the most influential people in their lives.
When a mentor just naturally adopts you, you feel all tingly inside and right from that first day, you know opportunity is coming your way. Be open to it.
9. Personally brand your strengths and interests on social media. Put yourself out there.
So this speaks highly to personal branding, and if you aren’t working on this already, it is time to start putting your best self out there on social media. Take the time to craft a profile that showcases your strengths, talent, skills and experiences. But don’t be a snark about it — no one likes a show off. Be authentic and find an enjoyable way to market or promote yourself in a way where potential mentors can see commonality to help you achieve your goals.
It’s no surprise that the top women leaders in business, tech and other industries acknowledge the importance of mentors in their career success.
But we know that mentees struggle finding a mentor. It requires focus and intention. As a young female professional in business or tech — you name the industry — if your hope is to find a mentor, this will require you to build relationships both in and beyond your workplace. Look for men or women who can provide you valuable feedback, advice, or open doors for you. This is essential for furthering your career. Mentors can even help you grow personally, pushing you to develop beyond your comfort zone.
So get out there and find a kick-ass mentor!
Do you have a mentor? How did you find him or her? Share your mentoring experience in the comments!