I have been a mentor to a few people and I take pleasure in seeing someone grow from our joint efforts. I continue to receive requests for mentorhip from young women on a daily basis.
I have noticed that most of the mentorship requests that are sent to me are from people who have very little information about what a mentorship program entails. They are not clear about what it is they want to achieve through the mentorship and they expect me to do all the work on their behalf.
Being a hard working and busy businesswoman, I value people’s time and I expect the same from them.
I want to share my understanding of mentorship and give you pointers on how to approach and engage the person you wish to mentor you.
Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger, but have a certain area of expertise.
There are a few key things that you can pick up on mentorship just from the definition above.
- The mentor needs to be more experienced or knowledgeable than the mentee on the subject of the mentorship.
- The mentor’s role is to offer guidance.
- Development is an important part of the relationship.
There are different kinds of mentorships but I will focus on the Profession or Trade Mentorship because that is the most common one I get approached about. This is when you are mentored by someone who is currently in the trade/profession you are entering. They understand the trends, important changes and new practices that you should know about to stay at the top of your career. A mentor like this would be someone you can discuss your ideas with and who can introduce you to key people in the field that you should know.
Below are a few pointers that will help you develop and enter into a successful mentorship relationship/program.
Goals are important, they get you thinking about your ideal future and they motivate you to turn your vision of this future into reality. Knowing and understanding exactly what it is you want to achieve from a mentorship relationship, will help you through the process and assist you in selecting the right mentor. Setting goals focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your mentorship program and your resources so that you can make the very most it.
There are a few things I remember from tertiary about goals:
- Goals must be realistic.
- Goals must be measurable.
- There must always be a time frame attached to achieving set goals
Write down the things you want to achieve from a mentorship program and be specific. I have found that it is easier to get to a destination when you know exactly where you are going.
Choose a Mentor
Do not frustrate people by approaching them to mentor you before you have done all the necessary research and preparations. The mentorship relationship needs to be mutually beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee. When you approach someone to mentor you, you need to make them feel like mentoring you will be a great use of their time and expertise. Before choosing a suitable mentor, you need to answer the following questions:
What do I know about this person?
It is very important to do thorough research on the person you wish to mentor you. What impresses them, what gets them excited, what do they value, if they have been involved in mentorship relationships before, who were they mentoring and what were the results. Know the person well before you ask him or her to become your mentor.
While you may have identified someone who meets your requirements as an ideal mentor, that person may not necessarily serve as a great partner or they might not have the time to commit to your mentorship requirements.
It is critical to know that you can work and communicate well with the person who’s going to help guide your career. The mentor must be supportive, communicative, inspiring and must feel that your needs are important.
Does this person have the skills and knowledge that you are looking for?
It’s important that you choose a mentor that you are going to be able to learn from and not just someone who is “popular”. The ultimate goal is to have a relationship with someone who will help you gain the skills and knowledge that are beneficial to your career. Your mentor should ideally be someone who shares your professional outlook and perhaps has even accomplished the goals you hope to achieve.
Is the person well regarded in his trade/profession?
It would be wise to choose a person who is respected by his or her peers and gets along well with many individuals within the trade/profession. Relationships are important.
Show Initiative & Take Charge.
Don’t make your goals or success someone else’s responsibility. I have found that most of the people who approach me for mentorship, are not prepared to do the necessary work. They are simply looking for an easy way to the next level of their career and are relying on me to lead the process and do the work for them.
No one wants to be burdened with someone else’s load, we all have things we would like to achieve with our time. Expecting someone else to do all the work for you in a mentorship relationship is a bad idea. The relationship is meant to guide you, not to carry you. This means that you are responsible and you need to work very hard to achieve your goals. Someone might agree to mentor you but no one will ever care about your dreams and success as much as you do. My friend Nomndeni always says “I will never fight harder for a person than they are willing to fight for themselves”…
Prove yourself and show the mentor that you are hard working and worth their time. Always be few steps ahead of them, don’t let them chase you, it’s not fair.
Work Hard and Review Goals
Never waste opportunity, when you have finally managed to convince someone to take his or her time and mentor you, work hard. Never miss or be late for appointments, never miss your assignment deadlines and be honest about your progress.
It is very important to review your goals from time to time so you can check if you are still on track. If you feel that you are falling behind, communicate with your mentor and work harder to catch up. Whenever hard word is required, apply hard work and do not make excuses.
These are just a few things I thought I would share with you on the subject. I need you to understand that mentorship is a serious commitment that requires time and hard work. Do not discredit yourself with people you look up to, by approaching them for mentorship without doing the necessary work, research and preparations.
Lastly, please be very careful how you make contact with the potential mentor, first impressions last. Write a formal e-mail detailing your wishes. Think of it as a proposal. You need to blow the person away, don’t send two line emails, no one will take you seriously.
I might have missed a few things on this subject, feel free to leave a comment and share your advice.
I trust that this will be helpful to you in finding a suitable mentor and entering into a mentorship relationship that will grow your career.