Looking for a Mentor?

Choosing a mentor can be an important milestone in your professional career; a good mentoring relationship can be extremely rewarding in many ways. But putting time, thought and effort into a mentoring relationship is essential if it has to succeed. Also, as a mentee you have greater responsibility for the relationship than the mentor does. What has worked well for you in the past? You become as your teacher, therefore, select with care. Mary Rudisill According to Carol Gallagher, author of Going to the Top, just like we are responsible as drivers, when we sit behind the wheel and need to adapt to potholes and obstacles, we are responsible for asking for the help we need to shape our careers. Mentees who derive the most value from their mentoring relationship invest time upfront in finding the right people to help them grow. People have different learning styles, which influence how well or quickly they learn. Once you have determined what you would like to gain from a mentoring relationship, consider the qualities in a mentor that are best-suited to those needs. It might be useful to review what has worked well for you in the past. Can you think of a period in time when you had a learning relationship that had a great impact on your professional life? How did you establish this learning relationship? What worked well for you? What would you do differently now, in retrospect? The broader the network you build as your career develops, the deeper your sources of personal and professional support resources will be. How many mentors do you need? Very few people get all that they want from a single mentor, or from a single mentoring relationship; you may need to temper what you can expect to learn from any one person. Alternatively, you might find it beneficial to take on different mentors at various stages in your career – or to augment what you gain from you mentor by developing a broad network of talented people who can assist you with secondary learning needs. You may also be well-served to forge casual relationships with people who have varying levels of experience across a broad range of functions, both inside and outside the organization. The diversity of perspectives could prove to be a great asset – and keep you from exhausting your mentor in the process as well. Questions to Ask When Looking for a Mentor Who is successful in my field? Whom do I admire and respect? Who are the most influential people I know? Who thinks I have potential? Who has encouraged me? Who has helped me in the past, and would do again? (Source: Connecting with Success: How to Build a Mentoring Network to Fast-Forward Your Career, by Kathleen Barton)


Looking for a Mentor?
Assessing a Potential Mentor’s Characteristics A good mentor is someone who has been mentored, who understands and is willing to talk about their career journey, who focuses on learners and teaching and who can really build good relationships with other people, and is well respected. - Myrna Marofsky, president of a mentoring consulting organization Good mentors possess certain qualities, but it might be difficult to find a single person who has all of the qualities you’re looking for. Use this checklist to evaluate the fit of potential mentors by determining the qualities that are most important to you. My Potential Mentor Has achieved a level of responsibility or recognition that I want to achieve Possesses the knowledge, skills, and expertise I need Is influential in my organization or field Is someone I admire, respect and trust Is willing to invest the time to mentor new people Listens to understand others’ points of view Encourages people to achieve their goals Has excellent coaching skills Make Your Search for Mentors Expansive What made a difference for me was having different kinds of people as my mentors. These were individuals whose ideas resonated with me. What they said made sense to me personally. They were not necessarily senior people in the organization. They included my employees, my peers and senior management. - D. McDonough, Managing Shareholder (Retired)., Lozano Smith Professional Corporation Expand your mentoring horizons. Do not limit your search for mentors to any particular group or category. You may need different mentors for different needs: Mentors of the same race and gender can serve as role models and understand your professional identity issues. Mentors who can open doors for you often belong the majority class. Mentors who can share their wisdom and contacts. Mentors of various races and cultures, and both genders, who will increase your ability to work with diverse people. Mentors who primarily offer advice and support. Yes Not Sure No


Looking for a Mentor?
Is a Prospective Mentor a Good Match? Once you speak to a potential mentor and have a sense for his/her experiences and personality, there are four major types of relationships that can emerge, based on personality and rapport.

Similar Different


Different X

P E R I E N C Similar E

Great potential for learning. Hard to reach shared understanding
High Rapport, low learning


Lots of potential for learning Hard to get shared understanding


Low potential for learning, high shared understanding


Scope for seeing shared experience from different viewpoint
Low Rapport, high learning


The key questions to ask yourself are, ‘What type of relationship will best serve my needs?’ and ‘Am I prepared to trade off some of the comfort of familiarity for greater potential for learning?’ If you have relatively low self-confidence, and prefer less exposure to uncomfortable learning situations, you may need a relationship that places emphasis on rapport. If you have high learning maturity and self-confidence, a more stretching match- one where building rapport will demand effort by both parties and will be part of the learning – may be more appropriate. When the emphasis is primarily on rapport building, same-group matches are likely to work best. When emphasis is on learning, particularly getting out of your comfort zone and having your assumptions challenged, a cross-group relationship might be more appropriate. If you are seeking mainly a sympathetic ear from your mentoring relationship, finding someone like you is as good a strategy as any. If you want to maximize learning, however, you would be better served to look for somebody very different; the greatest opportunities for learning come with people least like us. In practice, most people find a mentor some where between the two extremes. To determine if a potential mentor might be a good match for you, consider what is most valuable to you, and what you are looking for in terms of a mentoring experience, to guide you as you proceed. (Source: Mentoring Across Differences: Creating Pathways to Diversity by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association)


Looking for a Mentor?
Initiate Contact – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask! Asking for help can be difficult. The first major obstacle for a mentee is to contact a prospective mentor to ask for help – however, the payoff will be huge! Don’t delay! Your future is waiting! If you have identified a prospective mentor who looks like a good fit, you are well on your way, just pick up the phone… While it may be difficult for you to ask for help, recognize that the prospective mentor will most probably be flattered – and excited – by your call. Is it possible that the prospective mentor will decline? Absolutely. If a prospective mentor does not feel that he or she has the time or talent to fulfill your needs, it is in your best interests if he or she declines – rather than investing months of time, only to fall short of your goals. If this happens to you, thank that person for being the best mentor you never had – the one who had enough commitment to your goals to prompt you to find a better fit for your needs. Use your initial conversation with a prospective mentor to: Get acquainted before agreeing to a mentoring relationship; disclosing and discussing interests allows a better determination of fit –and increased chances for success. Help you assess the compatibility of your development needs and the mentor’s expertise. Clarify essential expectations for the relationship. Recommended Conversation Flow Be honest in communicating with your prospective mentor what led you to choose him/her from the list of available mentors. Clearly outline your developmental goals, how you arrived at them, and the steps you are currently taking to address them yourself. Use questions to check your assessment of the value he/she could bring as your mentor: What experiences do you bring that might be strengthen my development, relative to my goals? What are you looking for in a mentee? What expectations do you hold for mentees? How do you foresee each of us fulfilling our unique roles? Are you willing and able to commit the time needed to help me reach my goals? What are you looking to gain from a mentoring partnership? If you have a clear idea in mind for how a mentor can benefit your development or help you reach your goals, please share them – and ask the prospective mentor whether he/she senses a fit with your vision. Thank Your Prospective Mentor and Follow Up Regardless of whether you decide to move ahead, remember to thank this person after your conversation for his/her willingness to spend time exploring the possibility of a partnership.