It’s hard to overstate the advantages of having a knowledgeable career mentor. With a mentor at your side, you gain invaluable insights and your network of helpful contacts expands significantly. According to the 2,220 chief financial officers surveyed by Accountemps, 86% consider having a mentor to be important. Dana Manciagli, writing for The Business Journals, has compiled some thoughts on finding and utilizing a good mentor relationship.
Begin by thinking seriously about the career you desire, and look honestly at yourself to pinpoint the areas in which you need the most help.
If your company has a mentorship program, look into it.
Decide whether you need a mentor within your company who can help you advance there. If you’re looking beyond your current position or need someone to help you deal with challenges you don’t want anyone at work to know about, consider someone outside the company. It could be someone you’ve met at a conference or seminar, or just someone you admire.
Bill Driscoll of Accountemps suggest your best way of reaching out to a potential mentor is via email, which gives you the opportunity to carefully craft your proposal so that it clearly explains your interest in a mentor/mentee relationship. It also gives your candidate a chance to respond thoughtfully and at their convenience.
If you get a nibble and a meeting, use it to lay out what makes the potential mentor’s wisdom valuable to you and what you hope to get. Stress your desire to learn and say what you can bring to the relationship.
Formulate a personal game plan by identifying your goals for the relationship — don’t waste a minute of the time your mentor has to give you.
Try to schedule phone calls or in-person conversations every week or so to talk about recent developments and go over plans. You could also attend relevant meetings, conferences, or seminars together.
If your mentor works at your company, it may be possible to get invited to observe how they operate. But be absolutely sure to regularly communicate your gratitude to your mentor for the help he or she is so graciously providing.
Eventually, you may advance beyond a career level at which your mentor can guide you, and taking any more valuable time from them wouldn’t be fair.
When you’re ready to let go of your mentor, explain how having their help has been so useful, and be sure to say “thank you.” You want this last impression to be a positive as the first. Tell your mentor you’d still like to stay in touch, perhaps getting together from time to time.
A positive mentoring relationship often leads to a lifelong business association and friendship that has incalculable value to you both. And remember your mentor when a request for help arrives in your email inbox one day.