In the IT and tech worlds as in life, we can’t do everything on our own. We need good advice, a sounding board, and the perspective of somebody who understands where we’re coming from. So why do so many people avoid mentor-mentee relationships?
Because most people don’t understand how to get a mentor, if they realize they need one at all.
A great mentor is rarely handed to you. Sure, some people naturally fall into mentorships without making a concerted effort, but this isn’t something you want to leave to chance. In tech and IT, it’s imperative to be at the top of your game and to think like an entrepreneur. A mentor can help you make the most out of your job and show you how to turn it into your life’s work, not just another 9 to 5.
However, there’s a catch: finding the right person for you. But don’t despair. Mentees have found their mentor matches for centuries, and you can, too. All it takes is a little work.
How to Find Your Best Mentor
First, you need to realize that most mentorship happens organically.
The words “will you be my mentor?” should ideally never come out of your mouth. That’s because good relationships develop naturally over time. In fact, you may already have a mentor if you seek the counsel of a trusted advisor regularly. Don’t discount any relationship just because the person in the mentor role isn’t in your exact field or industry. If he or she is valuable to your career, the person becomes your mentor as soon as you start thinking of them as such. No further acknowledgment is necessary.
If you haven’t found your mentor yet, determine what traits and qualities an ideal mentor would have to be useful to your specific work life.
Does your mentor need to have taken your career path? Or would it be better to get an outsider’s perspective? Do they need to be senior-level, or would somebody with just a few extra years’ experience suffice? Remember that mentors can come from anywhere, so don’t set your sights too narrow.
Start or deepen a professional relationship with your would-be mentor.
If you’ve pinpointed a stranger as your ultimate mentor, do not start by asking him or her for mentorship. For new as well as old contacts, let them know that you value their knowledge and would appreciate their professional opinion. Invite them to coffee or lunch, and get to know them (or know them better). If and only if you feel that the relationship is comfortable for both of you, see if you can continue asking their advice in the future on an ongoing basis.
Be the relationship’s maintenance person.
When you’re receiving the benefits of mentorship, make your gratitude known. Say please and thank you. Ask your mentor about his or her life, and offer your help. Mentorship might look from the outside like a one-way street, but nothing is further from the truth. It’s up to you to nurture the relationship — and eventually, to pay it forward by taking on a mentor of your own.