Everyone needs a mentor. There is no doubt that mentorship has positive lift for young and old, job seekers and career ladder climbers, students and teachers, managers and individuals. I have often argued that not only are mentors valuable, but a variety of mentors is perhaps the best path to objective, savvy and smart advice for both the good and bad times.
Many people do not have a mentor or even a clue how to find one, so below are some pointers on preparing for, identifying and securing a mentor or mentors to keep you soaring in all that you do, all that you aspire to and keeping you sailing through life and your career.
- Mentors can come from everywhere: co-workers, colleagues, congregations, family, fans, friends, professional associations, strangers and teachers.
- Mentors provide advice, challenge, clarity, meaning, navigation, objectivity, perspective, purpose and trajectory.
- Be visible in all of your avocations, professional pursuits and while socializing. Be seen as smart, human and approachable. Always reciprocate good works and the help you receive along the way.
- Look for people who do what you want to do. Chances are they have already traveled the avenue you hope to take and can guide you through the obstacles, turns and twists often found on the highway to self-actualization .
- Take stock of your network and make a list of people who you believe could give you sound counsel and advice. Leave no stone unturned employing all of your relevant social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, Snapchat and Twitter, to name a few.
- With the list in hand, identify the characteristics most important to you in terms of profession, experience, education, avocations, and professional and personal accomplishments. With the matrix completed, prioritize the list of proposed mentors based on your preferred characteristics.
- Having identified and prioritized your list of mentors, take the top five and outline your method of contact based on your familiarity with them and ease of communications.
- Depending on the impact you wish to have and/or make, send an email or handwritten note to each outlining your desire for mentorship. State what you hope to learn about yourself based on your potential mentor’s background, experience and accomplishments.
- Assess what value you can provide to a mentor in return for her or his time. Could your network be helpful? Is there some experience you have had that could be of use to a potential mentor? Give it some deep thought and make a list of the value proposition so that you are prepared ahead of time.
- Follow up with your potential mentors by phone or email suggesting a time and place to meet. Getting together at a coffee shop is likely a good path to least resistance as it may imply a short “information” meeting. Make it easy to say yes by choosing a venue near the mentor’s place of business. Offer to buy coffee or lunch if your budget is appropriate.
- Depending on your response rate, you may need to work your way down your prioritized list of mentors. More than likely you will receive warm responses to your outreach. The rest is up to you.
- Prior to your meeting, search Google for information about your potential mentor and/or look them up on LinkedIn and Facebook. Make sure you bring yourself up to speed about the person and their career path, interests and passions.
- Make a list of questions in advance and remember those questions so you are prepared for anything during your meeting.
- Let nature take its course. Also before parting company, inquire about frequency and method of communications. Do what is convenient for your mentor.
- Follow up the meeting with a thank you note, by email or other medium. A handwritten note has a lasting benefit.
Gerard (Gerry) F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA is founder, chair and CEO of Redphlag LLC , a strategic branding and communications services and counseling firm and instructor in the Entrepreneurship Program at UC Berkeley, Extension. Gerry has more than four decades of technology, public relations and marketing experience in several Fortune 200 firms. He also is past chair and CEO (2012) of the Public Relations Society of America and an avid photographer, career coach and blogger. He also is a past member of PRSSA, having served in the Pearce Davies Alpha Chapter at San Jose State University.