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3 things you should do before finding a mentor

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Finding a mentor is often spoken about as being one of the best things you could do for your career. Mentors can help you find your direction, overcome new challenges, provide you with a fresh perspective, and so much more.

But before you run to go find yourself a mentor, pause to reflect on these three areas to ensure the career relationship you initiate is as productive and impactful as possible.

1.      UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAREER RELATIONSHIPS

Mentor. Coach. Sponsor – Do you know the difference? People often seek out mentorship, without fully understanding the variety of career development relationships and who drives them. Confirm that a mentorship relationship, vs having a coach or sponsor, is most applicable to your needs

A mentor, whether its formal, informal, or ad hoc, helps you navigate your career and gives advice about career direction, handling situations, and meeting goals. The mentee, you, drive the relationship and the mentor plays a reactive role in response to your career or interest areas.

A coach is much more proactive than a mentor and is possibly a short-term relationship. They enable you to learn new skills (typically soft skills), overcome challenges, and/or improve your performance. The relationship is driven by both parties. You’ll find that companies will hire coaches for their leadership team.

Finally, a sponsor is a senior leader or someone with influence who helps you get high-visibility opportunities, promotions, or new jobs. The sponsor drives the relationship by advocating about you to others in different settings. They champion your work to important people.

A simple way to put it is: “A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you”.

2.      ASK YOURSELF “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEARN” AND REMEMBER TO BE PREPARED FOR EACH SESSION

Woman-at-table-discussing-issue-with-a-mentor

As we have established, a mentorship relationship is supposed to be driven by the mentee where the mentor is responding/reacting to the needs of the mentee.

To help your mentor support you in the most effective way, be clear about what it is you want to learn or takeaway from the relationship and how they can help you. Of course, life will throw new opportunities and obstacles your way over time but knowing what you want to initially learn puts you on the right track from the get-go.

As each session goes on, preparedness continues to be important. Be sure to at least have a theme or a couple questions to chat about in each meeting. Or if you have nothing specific to talk about in a session, make it clear to your mentor that you just want to chat and connect – there is still value in building positive relationships.

Being prepared for meetings demonstrates that you respect your mentors time and will help your mentor support you in the most efficient way possible.

Some possible themes that you may want to talk to a mentor about are:

  • What are different career paths I could explore?
  • What skills, both hard and soft skills, are valuable in different roles and how can I build them?
  • What opportunities do you know are available to network with different people in the spaces I am interested in?
  • How can I position myself for a promotion?
  • How to I have a productive difficult conversation?

3.      UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR CORE VALUES ARE AND WHO YOU WORK BEST WITH

Woman-working-at-laptop-with-orange-headphones-on

If you want to find a mentor that you are going to have a productive, meaningful relationship, you should seek one out who shares similar core values with you. It means you will be guided along a path that is tailored for you and ultimately land you in a place that is more fulfilling.

Misalignment of core values can lead to frustrating conversations where a mentor doesn’t know how to help or the ways they try to help are not aligned with how you work or what you want to get out of life.

Some examples of core values could be:

Mentoring reference table

Understanding your values not only helps you have more effective relationships, but also can help you to identify your purpose, evaluate and inform decisions, increase your confidence and sense of self, and determine a career path that works to live by and amplify your values.

Some questions to help identify your core values are:

·        What times in your life have you felt the happiest?

·        When have you felt the proudest or fulfilled?

·        When have you struggled the most?

·        What qualities do you see in those you admire?

·        What qualities would others describe you with?

And that’s it! Understanding your goals, who you are, and the different types of career relationships you want will put you on the track to success when it comes to finding a support system.

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