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The research on the power of mentorship is pretty clear: People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction. And mentors benefit , too. After all, “to teach is to learn twice.” Despite all these benefits, and even though 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is important to growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship.
Get out a pen and paper, and write out your career goals. Make sure they are SMART . Then, list out some of the biggest obstacles to achieving them. This specificity will help you decide what type of mentor you should be looking for. Maybe you need to develop new skills, expand your network in a specific sector, or build confidence to have some tough conversations.
Equipped with your goals and what you need to help achieve them, think through how a mentor can help. Write out the type of mentor that can help you seize your biggest opportunities and/or navigate your challenges. Be specific here. Perhaps you need someone that can help you accomplish a project, make introductions to people at a certain level within a specific industry, or coach you through a tough negotiation.
Mentors can be from anywhere. They can be from your LinkedIn network, professional connections, or people you’ve met at conferences. It’s important to remember that while people are certainly busy, being asked to be a mentor is a massive compliment. People might say no, but it will be a positive exchange and you shouldn’t be shy about thinking big and making the asks, even if you think there is no way the person can find time for you. Let them be the judge of that.
Asking someone to be your mentor the first time, second time, and even third time is a little awkward. It’s likely you’ve never been asked to mentor someone else, nor taught how to make the ask for yourself. Embrace the uncomfortable feeling and be vulnerable. There is no harm that can come from asking, but take it slow. Ask someone for a first conversation to learn more about their work and interests.
You have two goals for your first conversation with your potential mentor. First, you need to determine if this person is really the right mentor for you. Then, find out whether they are open to the idea of mentoring you. How you approach the conversation will depend on you, but in general, you’ll want to do these few things:
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