I’ve always had a lot of mentors throughout my career, and I plan to continue that trend. Finding mentors has always been a natural thing for me, so I love it when a professional says to me something like, “I’m looking for a mentor, how should I go about that?” or “I want this specific person to be my mentor.”
We ask a lot of the people in our lives, sometimes. We rely on our family for help juggling the daily chores and family logistics. We lean on our friends to share in our trials and tribulations. We pull aside our peers when we need to vent and cheer. And yes, we ask for time from people we admire for advice.
Mentorship is a relationship and so we should we treat it with the respect and intention we do all our relationships, maybe even more so because we go into it knowing that we’ll be taking time from these people, without clear benefit to them.
Given that, here’s some advice for how to seek out and begin a mentorship relationship with respect and intention.
Give something back:
Remember that your mentors should get something out of working and speaking with you. Some of it is going to be the organic benefit of a relationship. Some people just straight-up love developing others (like us!). That’s great and certainly makes having a mentor relationship with them easier. That said, don’t forget to show them the love. Say thank you with a nice hand-written note. Send them a referral or an article that might be of interest. Let them pick your brain about what you have insight to that they don’t. It’s a relationship and while you can and should expect them to show up for you, you have to do the same.
Don’t pick just one:
This is really important. I don’t rely on only one friend to fulfill my social needs... some friends are better at talking about work, some are better at cheering me up, and some friends are perfect buddies for venting. Think about potential mentors the same way. Lean on one for emotional support, get advice about advancement and development from another, dig into the expertise of a third. The side benefits of thinking about your mentor circle this way is that every mentor ask is smaller and less intimidating to make, it broadens the support you receive, and deepens your bench of champions.
Keep it real:
Be authentic with your mentors. Do this by being clear and honest about what you’re trying to achieve or what you’re hoping to learn or request from them. People can tell when you’re being fake and will sniff that out really quickly. Your humanity will help people connect with you and figure out how best to support you.
What type of mentorship are you receiving today? What champions are you looking for?
PS - Thank you to all the mentors in my life. You’re awesome.
-- Kara Davidson, Cofounder, wolf & heron