You may have been recommended to find a mentor as part of your business or career development. When selecting a mentor, firstly look around you at who you admire. It might not necessarily be the most senior person, or the most famous person in a given field.
I found that the mentors to whom I was attracted had particular qualities that were really important to me, such as integrity, being able to see the value in other people, and the ability to innovate. Think about your values and what is important to you, and what is less important. You may want to list these to refer back to.
You get a sense of a person’s values when you see how they are with others. Observe your potential mentor, whether it is in meetings, when you are standing in the line at the canteen in a workplace – you will know from how somebody consistently acts whether they are going to genuinely support you.
I do think that you have to be careful, as there is an expectation now within many organisations that senior individuals will mentor, and some of those mentors perhaps do it because they have to, rather than because they have a genuine passion for helping others and desire to share their wisdom.
Find a mentor that resonates with you and that you can build that trusted relationship with, who has experience of achieving the goals you would like to achieve for yourself.
The mentoring relationship is different to coaching, a mentor is somebody who has gone there first. You’re asking for advice and actually, the openness of that relationship and trust between you is critical to the success of the mentoring and your achievement of the desired outcomes.
Early in your career or business if you make a mistake or you’ve got a difficult situation to deal with, your mentor is the person you go to. I had a situation about 2 years ago, where there was a particular situation I was dealing with in corporate and I really needed the advice of one of the guys who was a mentor of mine 15 years ago – he no longer worked in the company, but I dropped him an email and had a quick 15 minute call which gave me the clarity and insight I needed. A mentoring relationship has longevity.
You can change mentors throughout your career, and I would always say have more than one. Having different people for different skills or viewpoints can be really helpful to give you a balanced view and help you advance more rapidly towards your goals.
You don’t have to do everything a mentor says, a mentor will encourage you to find your own way, but with the benefit of that guiding hand.
A champion and an advocate within an organisation or industry is somebody who has a degree of influence, who knows your work, knows what you do and quite often it could be somebody who is a couple of steps up from you. Through their network when opportunities arise, they will place you forward and encourage others to see your value. A mentor can often fulfill this role for the mentee, however it is good to cultivate other champions by allowing the quality of your work to speak for itself and regularly seeking feedback.
A champion is there selling you and selling your skills while you are not in the room. Again, I had a fabulous colleague who used to do that for on my behalf and created some brilliant and challenging opportunities which I stepped up to with ease, partly because I knew his credibility rested on how I performed in the situation.
This is especially important within fast-moving environments such as technology and innovation, when new teams and alliances are constantly forming, and new products are being created. Your reputation goes ahead of you, and it makes forming new relationships much easier, yielding results more quickly.
Find the right people to support your business and career and focus on building relationships.