In the last post, I told you the reasons it’s crucial to have a mentor. But how do you find the right person? And how do you approach them?
Here are a few considerations when searching for a mentor who’s right for you:
Maybe you already have a wish list made up…but probably not. Do you know someone who radiates that delightful balance of success, confidence, and humility? Have you met someone and wondered what it is they’re doing that keeps them so, you know, with it? These rare people can be difficult to find because, more often than not, they don’t spend all their time free-range socializing. They’re tuned in to their projects because they’re doing what they love.
People can be really weird. So can you. It goes without saying that your mentor should share, at least, a compatible value system. It’s difficult to have a mutually beneficial relationship with someone who, quite frankly, just rubs you the wrong way. Try to vet your mentor candidate carefully to prevent this, but it’s okay to give it a shot and then — politely! — admit it just isn’t working out. Chances are, they’re feeling out of sync, too. Shake hands, wish one another the best and move on.
Remember, you’re looking for someone to challenge you and push your boundaries. This requires differences in perspective, experience, and sometimes even personality. You aren’t looking for a mentor so samey-samey that you agree on every topic and have the identical feelings about each one of your goals.
Time is a resource none of us has to spare. We all get the same amount of time in a day, but the way we spend it? That’s critical. Before you approach your hoped-for mentor, you need to sit down and think about how much time you can afford. You’re going to have to be very flexible. High-achievers are, statistically, early risers. Would you be willing to meet for an hour Wednesday mornings at 7am? Be realistic, but stretch yourself to adjust to the mentor’s schedule. Their days are likely booked solid, but if they’re willing to squeeze in some face-to-face time, you should be, too.
It’s important to remember that the mentor/mentee relationship should be one like the Proverbs friendship: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Both parties should be investing in the other and reaping the rewards. In the early stages of mentoring, you should set up an opt-out. If, after a period of time, one or both of you are not benefiting from the relationship, you already have a procedure in place to graciously exit. This does not mean you should bow out if you feel pushed beyond your normal boundaries. Your mentor should be challenging you. But if criticism gives way to only insults (ahem, my drivers’ ed teacher…), you won’t have to invent a creative reason to leave.
Finding a mentor can take a significant amount of time, but when you get the right creative synergy happening, you’ll be so pleased at the results.
Do you already have a mentor? How did you find them?
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