How to find a mentor
Mentorship is an act, experience, and opportunity that is beneficial to everyone involved. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all approach. It personal to you and the situation!
If you have not read the Mentee Overview, please do so first!
To find a mentor, it is helpful to first reflect on these questions:
- What do I need help with?
- How can mentorship help me?
- What kind/form of mentorship do I want?
🌳 What do I need help with?
Mentorship starts with asking a personalized, thoughtful question.
What makes mentorship valuable and rewarding is that it's a form of personalized, dynamic help. And in order to get help, you (or someone else before you) often have to ask for it. And asking for help usually requires asking a question.
Questions are powerful (and an art)! Therefore, it is helpful to first ask yourself what you need/want help with and what you're trying to achieve. Please see these examples for inspiration.
Asking questions kick-starts the reflection process and your mentoring journey.
🌱 How can mentorship help me?
With your goal(s) in mind, think about how mentorship will help you. People mentor differently depending the individual and situation/environment.
Are you looking for more in-depth knowledge, encouragement, accountability, and/or connections? Something else? Take a look at these common mentorship styles.
There's no right or wrong. The key part is to be aware of situations when you're expecting one thing, but getting something else. Therefore, you can take steps and communicate so that things are aligned.
With time, as you receive help, you can later give and help others as well.
☀️ What kind/form of mentorship do I want?
Given your top question(s) and goal(s), think about the what form of mentorship you are looking for. Does it have to be a formal, structured mentoring relationship? Or can you be flexible and open to any kind.
While formal, structured mentor-mentee mentorship is helpful, it is also a bit harder to come by. This is primarily due to assumed commitment, shared familiarity/trust, and upfront planning. Which is why it's more often seen within companies/organization, paid programs, community groups, and organized mentorship programs.
It's helpful when it's available to you, but when not, there are plenty of other ways!
If you can stay open to the idea of informal, organic mentorship, you'll find that it can be just as valuable, more accessible, and easier to be a part of.
❓ It starts with a question
Mentorship should not be forced (and it is difficult to do so). Instead, think of mentorship as simply asking for help, asking questions, getting responses, following-up, and the cycle continues.
Asking questions allows other to chime in and share their perspective, guidance, and thoughts.
Sometimes, that manifests as a single conversation, or it can be multiple ones. You will find that some folks are mentoring without knowing it. There are folks who are mentors but avoid the formal label. And vice-versa.
Formal, structured mentorship programs, whether they're online, in the workplace, local community, are beneficial -- the more the merrier. Do try to join programs when it makes sense for you (see the questions above). But also stay open to informal, unstructured mentorship.
When we think about the mentorship that is being exchanged at scale, most happens informally.
Instead of trying to formalize something from the onset, simply ask question and let the conversation and relationship develop organically. Start with a question, await a response, ask follow-up questions, let it turn into a conversation, and repeat. Do keep these helpful practices in mind.
You'll find that the asking a question strategy is more flexible, accessible, and easier to get started.
Now, let's talk about where to ask these questions!