Finding a Mentor for Yourself

INDEX:


Should you find a mentor for yourself ?

When you look through the list of web pages on this site which are designed specifically for mentors, one of the conclusions you may reach is that there are quite a few pages on selection of mentors and matching of mentors and proteges. If you have not yet reviewed these pages, I strongly suggest that you do so now.

Given the presentation of all these pages, you might assume that there is a predominant opinion that people in mentoring pairs should be assigned by others at a mentoring program leadership level, or by a manager. That view is the one this author holds. There are a number of reasons why this approach is often better than choosing a mentor for yourself, but that’s not what this web page is about. Therefore, the first question is, “Should you find a mentor for yourself ?”

There are some circumstances and sometimes even programs in which protégés DO choose their own mentor. The most common of these is when a person wishes to have
a mentor, but is not in an organization or context where there is an existing mentoring
program from which to seek the assignment of a mentor.

So, regardless of whether this author supports the approach or not, the issue still remains, IF you ARE going to do so, or if you NEED to do so, “HOW do you find a mentor for yourself?”


Think About It Before Acting

Before you think about WHO could be your mentor, first do some self-reflection and decide what your strengths and needs are for development and/or professional growth. Focus primarily on the areas in which you will try to grow, because these are the areas in which you need complementary strengths in a mentor. in other words, what you lack and need to gain, your mentor must possess.

  • If you need to learn content knowledge, the mentor must already know it, or know how to access it.
  • If you need a set of specific skills, the mentor must be able to do those skills,
    or know others who do, so the mentor can connect you to observe and learn from them.
  • If you need help strategizing about your learning, work or career, the mentor
    needs strengths as a strategist, an approach to thinking that some other experts
    just cannot do.
  • If you need to build your network and make contacts which can potentially help
    you, your mentor must already have such a network.
  • If you need opportunities to assume new responsibilities and to grow from a challenge, you need a mentor who can sponsor you, introduce you to others, advocate on your behalf for what you need, or even be in a position themselves to open the doors to the new challenge you need.

Use the SAME Process and Criteria

Use the SAME process and criteria that effective mentoring programs do. Why is this the starting point? Because regardless of whether YOU choose a mentor for yourself or someone else in a mentoring program assigns you one, the PROCESS and CRITERIA for selection of a mentor and matching of a mentor to a protégé should BE IDENTICAL. In other words, best practice in program selection and matching is also best practice for do-it-yourselfers.

Therefore, if you skipped over those web pages mentioned above, and have not read them yet, go there and do it now..

A critical part of any such process is creating a job description for the person being sought. Write your mentor’s job description. What knowledge, skills, contacts, experience are needed? What time commitment is needed?  Define the solution you’d like to find in the perfect mentor for you.


Decide Where Such a Person Would “Hang out” and Look There

If you want to catch any kind of fish, go to any old lake. But, if you want to catch rainbow trout, go to a rushing stream in Colorado. If you want to catch fish called a Sturgeon go to a very BIG lake. If you want a mentor with specific qualities and strengths (you DO) then you need to “fish” for that person at places where you are likely to find such people.

Let’s use the examples provided above to think about where to look for your mentor.

Ways You Want to Grow = What Your Mentor Must Possess Where Might Such a Mentor Be Found?
If you need to learn content knowledge, the mentor must already
know it, or know how to access it.
• In a school or training department where the mentor is TEACHING
that knowledge (take a course)• In a job, civic, religious, or
fraternal group, or avocation where the mentor must USE that knowledge
If you need a set of specific skills, the mentor must be able to do those skills, or know others who do, so the mentor can connect you to observe and learn from them. • In a school or training department where the mentor is TEACHING those skills (take a course)•In a job or professional, civic,
religious, or fraternal organization role where the mentor must USE those skills
If you need help strategizing about your learning, work or career, the mentor needs strengths as a strategist, an approach to thinking that some content or skills experts can or cannot do. • Observe for this quality in leaders at work, and in other organizations such as professional, fraternal, or civic groups.• Ask others you trust, “Who do you know in any setting who is a strategist,
and always planning ways to be more productive and effective?
If you need to build your network and make contacts which can potentially help you, your mentor must already have such a network. • Observe leaders at work, and in other organizations, to
see who seems to know everyone. Watch HOW they relate to others, what they do that builds connections, and then ask them about those qualities. Ask if they can mentor you on building a network, or help you find someone with those same qualities who can.•ï Ask others you trust, “Who do you know in any setting who has a great network and knows how to use it to benefit?”

•ï Become involved in and contribute to professional, fraternal, or civic groups where you are likely to meet people with the aptitudes you seek.

> E.g. Need to become a great public speaker?  Join Toastmasters and look for a mentor while you learn and contribute.

If you need opportunities to assume new responsibilities and to grow from a challenge, you need a mentor who can sponsor you, introduce you to others, advocate on your behalf for what you need, or even be in a position themselves to open the doors to the new challenge you need. • If the opportunities are at work, you have two options:A. Inform leaders of your desire to contribute more, to learn new skills,
to assume greater responsibilities. Ask them if there are ways to contribute more now while you build greater skills, so you can earn the opportunities you want and prepare yourself to effectively assume them. Ask them if they can help you do any of these things in any specific way.

B. Use the advice below to gain the skills you need to succeed in new responsibilities and roles, then, do the above step to demonstrate those abilities at work.

• Become involved in and contribute to professional, fraternal, or civic groups where, if you are seen to contribute and be helpful, the leaders
will perceive you to be someone to include at the leadership level, and
will help you attain leadership opportunities and roles.


Work Your Network

You needn’t try to find your mentor all by yourself. Many people LIKE to help others, have many connections, and would be glad to help you IF they just knew HOW. Put the people you already know to work on your behalf. No matter if many others say no to you. Use your friends, family, professional colleagues, even folks who are only your acquaintances, who will help you by:

  • Telling them your goals
  • Telling them your desire to locate a mentor with the skills, knowledge, connections you need
  • Sharing with them your
  • Asking them if they know people that fit your description.
  • Asking them to keep thinking about and looking for such a person for you.

It may be that they don’t know someone to mentor you, but it may also be that they know someone who does know who your mentor could be. Get a web of contacts working on your behalf by giving them your perfect mentor job description.


“Advertise” For a Mentor

Create a description of the person you seek. Share that description verbally and in writing with people who are willing to help you search for your mentor.

Place the job description and your contact information:

  • On bulletin boards at work or where you spend parts of your time.
  • In company or organizations newsletters
  • In e-mail notices you broadcast to the group in your e-mail software’s address book
  • In newspapers or a magazine which a potential mentor might read
  • Where ever your potential mentor might be looking.

Do Things That Will Help Potential Mentors Notice You

As stated above (but a little differently) become involved in and contribute to professional work projects, even assignments that others have and with which they may need help. If that won’t work, join professional, fraternal, or civic groups where, if you are seen to contribute and be helpful, the leaders will perceive you to be someone to include at the leadership level, and will help you attain leadership opportunities and roles.

In all these settings, behave the way that will help the leaders to notice you. That includes a willingness to learn, a desire to grow and become more effective, that you are a strategic thinker, that your actions align with what you say. Show the leaders that you can be trusted, be discreet, be humble but accomplish important and valued things for the organization. Focus more of being effective than talking about or showing others that you are. Let your behavior and your questions help others discover what they need to see to value you and support you more.


Ask For a Recommendation

This one is simple. When talking to others about your desire to grow, your goals, whatever, don’t just ask if they have strengths in these areas, and might, therefore, be able to mentor you. ALSO ask if they can refer you to others THEY KNOW who might fit what you are seeking.

Give them a copy of your perfect mentor job description and then ask, “Who do you know that fits this description?”


Finally, Interview and Select the Best Mentor For YOU

One of the biggest obstacles in a sales environment is sales people who do all the work, but do not ASK for the order or sale. Amazing. They need to learn to be “closers”, and to close the deal they have been negotiating.

In order to find your mentor and to create the right mentoring relationship for your goals, you need to just do these things and ASK persons who seem to have or who can do what you need to mentor you in how they do it. The best way to do that is to set up an informal meeting over coffee or food, for which you should pay, and then be frank about what you seek. Don’t try to be subtle. State openly the kind of combination you think the potential mentoring relationship would be, why it is important to you, and ask the potential mentor if they see themselves as fitting into that picture.

Stated differently (se the start of this web page), your goal is the best fit of your needs and their strengths. Therefore state what you see your needs to be and ask them what strengths they see they have and the extent to which they see those strengths fitting your needs. Then, negotiate and “close the deal”.