By Robert Stitt
Not only does your question give the employer a chance to brag about his business (and that makes them happy, which is good for you), but it shows several key traits about you. It shows that you understand that you don’t know everything, that you are willing to be taught, that you want to learn the “company way”, and that you are a go-getter. (On the other hand, if the company does not have a mentorship program, perhaps you should reconsider just how great of a company it really is.)
Hopefully, the company mentorship program is not a one-size-fits-all entity. You need the freedom to find the mentor that will cause you to grow. Of course, even if there is not a program in your company, that does not mean you cannot find a mentor on your own. Many very successful people did just that. Others will tell you it’s the only way.
When looking for a mentor, consider these things:
Know what you want. Why do you want a mentor? Is this just the vogue thing to do, or do you really have some aspirations that you think they can help you accomplish? What areas do you want to work on and why? Do some soul searching before you ask somebody to come alongside you on your journey.
Be clear on expectations. What do you expect out of the relationship? Do you want them to hold your hand through some conferences? Do you want them to provide you with business contacts? Are you just looking for somebody to talk with? Whatever it is that you expect from your mentor, be very clear about it up front. You don’t want to end up in an “uncomfortable relationship” later on.
Who do you know? Why would somebody that doesn’t even know you want to be your mentor? Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, says, “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. If you really must ask, don’t beg—please. If you’re as qualified and as marketable as you should be, you won’t have to.”
Be open-minded. Perhaps you’re a chemist and your mentor runs the local comedy club. If they have the skills you’re looking for, so what? This goes back to questions number one and two: Why do you want a mentor? What do you expect out of the relationship?
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President & CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, put it this way, “Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested.”
If you are at that place in your career where climbing to the next rung is going to require some support, don’t be afraid to reach out. Do it for the right reasons, and with your eyes open, though.