By Expert Panel, Forbes Human Resources Council
Forbes, March 29, 2019.
Mentorship is a valuable arrangement for professionals at all career levels. If you want to reach your personal and professional goals, there’s nothing like a patient, helpful mentor to give you the encouragement you need to move forward.
This is especially true for newer employees in junior-level positions. It helps to have someone to look up to for advice and guidance when you’re just establishing your career, but you need to know what kind of mentor to look for. Below, a panel of Forbes Human Resources Council members explain how to identify an appropriate mentor within your organization and establish a mentor-mentee relationship.
1. Seek Out Someone You Respect
Look for someone in an organization that you respect and approach them. You could start small and ask their opinion on a piece of work, or even just say hi by the water cooler. Starting that conversation and asking for small pieces of advice begins a mentoring process. It doesn’t have to be formal, with agreements or an official invite. Just make sure you say thanks, so they will do it again. – Karla Reffold, BeecherMadden
2. Find Your Yoda
Look for the people passionate about their job, share your values and ask for guidance. The workplace can be too busy for an official “mentorship” program. However, a simple approach is to ask what programs would be good to study to grow your knowledge. Most veteran employees will be complimented by a request and a chance to discuss their passion. Build the relationship from that point. – Patricia Sharkey, Sharkey HR Advisors
3. Know What You Want
Before seeking out a mentor, first map out your career goals to understand what type of mentor would be best. Next, don’t just look at people who are more senior than you. Sometimes the perfect mentorbased on your professional needs is sitting to your left or right. Lastly, start an informal relationship with your potential mentor before making the ask to be sure a good mentor-mentee fit exists. – Dr. Timothy J. Giardino, Cantata Health
4. Identify Someone You Connect With On A Personal And Professional Level
It’s important an up-and-comer identify not only someone who has business experiences they can benefit from, but also someone they connect with on a personal level. When initiating the conversation, be specific about the time you’re asking for and your goals for the relationship. Most executives are busy, but they also recognize the importance of developing emerging talent and are willing to help. – Steven Jiang, Hiretual
5. Ask A Manager To Recommend A Mentor
Employees should consider approaching a manager or company leader about pairing with a mentor. This way, the manager may help to recommend a mentor whose accomplishments align with the employee’s goals. The manager may also introduce the individual to the employee and initiate the conversation about a mentorship. This may be more effective than the employee approaching a potential mentor directly. – John Feldmann, Insperity
6. Create Questions That Will Help You Start Conversations
Too many up-and-comers attach themselves to the “idea” of mentorship. Reflect on what you are really curious about in your next step of learning, then create a few compelling questions. Seek people who might have experience or may offer a differing perspective and gather data through a mode of discovery. A perfectly crafted question is a great conversation starter. – AJ Thomas, Auction.com
7. Get Clear About Your What And Why
Make a list of leaders who you admire and then answer two things: First, what qualities and experience do they have that you want to emulate? Second, why do you feel they can guide you to the next level as your mentor? You now have the basis to start a conversation that thoughtfully articulates to the mentor your what and why you chose them as a potential mentor. – Bridgette Wilder, Wilder HR Management & EEO Consulting
8. Find A Mentor You See Yourself Becoming
Find a mentor you see yourself becoming. You’re not necessarily looking for the person with the most accomplishments, but someone whose goals and personality align with yours. Consider people (other than your boss) who’ve offered guidance, support or spent time helping you. Then in a short meeting, describe what you’re looking for and your readiness to do the work. – Michele Markey, SkillPath
9. Find Or Start A Mentoring Program
Put a mentoring program in place so mentors and mentees aren’t matched through trial and error. Successful mentoring programs use data, questionnaires and interviews to connect participants with similar interests, personalities and goals. Then, they give them training to help make the relationship work. – Cameron Bishop, SkillPath
10. Understand Your Own Gaps
People tend to make this harder than it really is. Most people know of a leader or subject matter expert they feel they could learn from. It is just a matter of taking the lead on having the conversation with them about what support you feel you need. The key here is to ensure you are prepared for that conversation by having a sense of your gaps and what you want to focus on, and then ask. – Stephen Childs, Panasonic Automotive
11. Find Someone Who Is Already Invested In You
Find a person who you can let your guard down with, who can suspend judgment and be a critical source of positive challenge for you. The best mentors are often people who have seen your work, and who have already invested in you. Truth is most mentors find their mentee. That go-to person you check in with and bounce ideas off of? That may be the mentor who’s been looking for you. – Bianca McCann, Trifacta Inc.
12. Talk To A Few Potential Mentors And Make The Choice Organically
People who you respect might be very busy and not ready to give you the time needed for mentoring. Rushed advice or mentoring creates a bad experience amongst all involved. But by talking and creating a relationship with several professionals in your organization, you will organically find mentors who want to help. Be patient and find someone who genuinely cares. – Abhijeet Narvekar, The FerVID Group
Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization for senior-level human resources executives across all industries.