How To Find The Perfect Mentor and Why Everyone Needs One
Mentoring is an incredibly important part of anyone’s career journey. Often people say they wish they had someone to give them the answers, but they are looking for someone to coach them through certain problems, give them the tools to advance their career and help to encourage and motivate them. In other words, a mentor.
While many covet such a relationship, it is hard to know exactly how to achieve it. A good mentor is often an inspiring person that you already work well with or there is an established mutual connection and so perusing a mentor cold is a difficult task and often one that doesn’t work, so be careful where you begin your search.
We put together our top 5 tips for achieving a good mentoring relationship and, as today is National Mentoring Day, had a look at the complex dynamic of the mentoring relationship. We also spoke to some experts on the benefits of having both an internal and external mentor, but more on that later. First up, how to achieve the perfect mentoring relationship:
1. Work out what you want from the relationship
Clarify to yourself what the perfect mentor is. Think about questions like are they in your sector, or your workplace? Do you want them to help you broadly with soft skills like confidence and communication, or do you need someone with specific knowledge to help you through a video editing project for example? Having the answers to these questions is important, and the more specific you are, the better your relationship will be.
2. Be bold and ask for what you want
If there is someone that you admire that you would love to be your mentor, then just ask them. The worst they can say is no and you are no worse off than when you started. However, it is very difficult to go into a mentor relationship cold, so show them what you can offer them before you explicitly request a mentor relationship.
3. On the same token – be specific
People are far less likely to agree to a mentoring relationship if you are vague about your requirements. Time is precious, so if you ask for a 30-minute phone call each month for three months, chances are they are much more likely to agree than if you are non-committal in how much time and help you will be needing from them.
4. Make it a two-way street
Reverse-mentoring is just as valuable as mentoring. Even if you are not sure what you can offer, be there to support and advise your mentor too. Often a fresh perspective on a situation is exactly what they need.
5. Be a great mentee
When you have secured your mentor, make your meet-ups enjoyable. Be open to the advice you are being given, challenge ideas but also accept criticism. It is important to be balanced in your actions, but also not afraid to actively participate in the relationship. Those who contribute the most will find that they get the most back.
Be clear about your expectations from a mentor
While many may see mentoring as something for those starting out in their careers, this is not actually the case. At any stage in your life, there are always valuable lessons to be learned and insights to be gleaned from a mentor. From making business decisions, formulating an action plan, to good books to read, a mentor is the listening ear that so many of us need. A lot of the time we may not even be aware of the need for a mentor in our lives. As often is the case, we will identify as broadly content in how things are going in our lives. To quote Tony Robbins’ no man's land concept, often we are not really happy with our lives, but not quite unhappy enough to do anything about it. This is where a mentor can come in to drag you out of a sense of complacency and make an action plan.
At Speakers Corner, we operate an internal mentoring scheme, so we had a chat to some of the team to see what their thoughts on in-house mentoring were:
Nick, our Director, said he started the mentoring scheme to increase communication across teams. “I wanted us all to be able to learn from each other, as this is when we learn best. So, by taking each other out of the office to have a bit more of an informal chat, this can be facilitated. When like-minded people can collaborate, it makes the working environment a better place and that is a really powerful tool.
Debbie, a mentor, mentee and one of our Account Managers said: “I think it is great that we are paired with someone outside of our team, as it gives us all the chance to have a fresh perspective on ‘team’ issues. It is an opportunity to get to know what other teams are working on and how they think and feel, and this really opens your eyes to how the wider business is affected by different challenges. Importantly, I also think it helps the whole office to bond, as it gives us all the chance to speak to someone within the company who understands how things work, without facing any judgement.”
We run an internal mentoring scheme here at Speakers Corner
Helena, one of our Logistics team members and mentor said: “I wasn’t sure at first, but my opinion has been firmly changed. It gives you the opportunity to get to know people in the business that you otherwise would not have had contact with. I feel that, in my role as a mentor, I can offer the benefit of not only my work experience, but my years of experience within Speakers Corner too, to help my mentee find solutions to problems. The framework that allows mentees to be formally supported means that there is always someone who can be confidentially relied upon to talk about any kind of issues they may have.”
Verity, an Account Manager and mentee commented that, “I think mentoring is a positive thing. The benefits of being a mentee are that you can glean experience from someone who has been in the business longer than you have, so you can get someone else's perspective on the same challenges that you have been through. It offers a space and platform for taking a step back from office life.”
Lucy M from the marketing team added, “It's great to have a mentor, but also learning to be a mentor yourself - listening to and talking through your mentee’s experiences - reminds you of your own challenges and goals, which is really refreshing. I find it beneficial on both sides - and it's also a good excuse to refuel on coffee!”
A mentoring meeting gives you the chance to assess your personal goals and importantly refuel
After hearing these interesting perspectives on internal mentoring schemes, we wanted to hear some opinions on external mentoring schemes. We spoke to Fay Sharpe, founding shareholder of Zibrant, VP at BCD M&E and founder of the Fast Forward 15 mentorship programme, on the benefits of having a mentor outside of your workplace.
Fay said: “Having a neutral mentor is beneficial for a 360 view, as it means that a mentor is not just looking at your career, but they can look at the person holistically. To mentor someone to a good place in their lives is an all-around task, which can mean looking outside their career.
A good mentor is someone who is balanced, someone who you admire and, importantly, one who listens. Mentoring is about offering gentle counsel, so finding someone that will offer you this is very important. To anyone looking to develop a good mentoring relationship, I would say that it is also important for the mentee to be clear about what they are after and not waste the mentor's time. This means turning up to the meetings prepared, with all the relevant documents they need and notes from the last meeting, and having key areas that they want to focus on. This will ensure the most is made out of the relationship.
Fay is the founder of the Fast Forward 15 programme
"I would also say a good relationship is a two-way street. What you can give them is as important as what they can give you. This way you will feed off each other and create a more valuable relationship.”
We also spoke to Dawn Bowles, former Marketing Manager at Lloyds Banking Group and mentor on the Fast Forward 15 programme. Sharing her thoughts on mentorship, Dawn said, “External mentoring gives you a different perspective from that of your organisation. Having someone who supports you outside of your organisation is helpful as they can take a step back and offer an unbiased view. They aren’t directly embroiled in the same working situation."
Fay Sharpe: "having a neutral mentor is beneficial for a 360 view"
"I would also say that I think it is good to have a different selection of mentors, and it is important to have someone within and outside the organisation. Depending on where you are in your career, you have different needs for different mentors. It is good to find someone who will be a good mentor for the specific needs that you have in your career at that point. It is also important to have a mentor and a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who puts you forward for things internally in your organisation and pushes you from the inside, whereas a mentor will help you from the outside.”
Thank you, Fay and Dawn, for those helpful tips on mentoring.
A mentor is a push in the right direction, so we hope that National Mentoring Day will encourage everyone to search for these beneficial relationships and continue inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves.
For further information or to book a speaker, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070+44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.