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People seek out mentors to find ways to direct their career growth. By soaking up the advice of an industry veteran instead of learning certain lessons the hard way, a mentee can climb the ladder with (hopefully) a little more comfort along the way. The right guidance, inspiration and encouragement can do wonders for anyone’s career development. That is exactly why you need a mentor. Before you get too excited, fixating on your corner office on the top floor, you need to know how to find a mentor.

What Does a Mentor do?

Firstly, there’s no point in finding a mentor and having all the wrong expectations of the mentor-mentee relationship. A mentor will not coach you to eliminate specific career-limiting behaviours or to improve your performance. A mentor is neither your councillor nor your therapist. Also, if your job or line of work drives you to therapy you might need to ask yourself some bigger questions. Your mentor will not get into the trenches with you and advise you on specific scenarios. They will however, challenge you to think differently and approach your work differently.

What to Look For in a Mentor

There’s no point in finding a mentor with a great LinkedIn profile but no time or interest in you or your career growth. There are certain character traits you need to look for in a mentor in order to ensure a fruitful and successful relationship.

The right kind of mentor will:
• Be able to dedicate a reasonable amount of time and energy to you.
• Offer an experienced perspective
• Be willing to part with their own industry insights
• Maintain approachability and availability
• Be honest and diplomatic in their answers
• Show genuine compassion and support

Where to Look for a Mentor

Knowing what you need in a mentor is the first clue as to where you might find one. Someone with all of these qualities is unlikely to be hiding away. Those most invested in their industries are usually actively contributing to public forums, sharing and producing quality content online and sometimes even giving talks or lectures. The only problem with people who are in the public eye is that they are likely to have a slew of mentees thirsting for advice – in which case you would do well to set yourself apart from other potential mentees by going the extra mile.

How to Approach a Potential Mentor

In some cases, you can approach a potential mentor through a corporate mentoring program or through your human resources department. In other cases, you would need to network at conferences and seminars; it’s not always easy to get a word in though. Introductions really are the hard part, from there you can connect on LinkedIn, trying to connect with someone online without any face to face introduction first can be tricky though. If you are shy consider asking a respected former employer to be your mentor; they already know who you are and they are probably more likely to want to mentor you. The formation of a mentor-mentee relationship hinges on your ability to explain to your mentor why and how they will be able to mentor you. Without this sound reasoning, they are unlikely to take you especially seriously.

How to Set Yourself Apart From Other Mentees

Being a good mentee is just as taxing as being a good mentor if you are wasting your mentor’s time they will quickly lose interest and relinquish their wisdom in favour of aiding another more serious mentee. The best way to nurture this relationship is by always being organised, prepared for meetings and on time. If you are unable to ask specific questions and offer feedback the two of you may as well stare at each other for half an hour – it will likely be just as productive.

Once you’ve found a mentor the hard work has only just begun. You need to ensure that you are making full use of all your mentor’s wisdom and experience. The ideal relationship is one that challenges both the mentor and the mentee. By questioning, encouraging and taking a unique approach to industry challenges you will both be able to learn and grow.