How to Choose a Mentor: When searching for a Mentor, it is a good idea to first take assessment of yourself and your professional career. What do you need? Seek out a mentor who is SUCCESSFUL and ACCOMPLISHED. Realize that your Mentor does not have to be in your same industry; however, they should not be a stranger to you. You will want to look for a professional who is 5 to 10 steps ahead of your current career position. Do not be afraid to ask more than one person to Mentor you.
Set Goals: Decide what you want to achieve from the mentorship - for example - leadership skills, industry knowledge, networking contacts, or coaching? Drill down on those goals so that you understand what progression and success will look like within the mentorship. Define your short and long term goals and set timelines. This is information you will want to share with your Mentor so that they can provide accountability and structure for you.
Design your relationship: Accomplished and successful business professionals are VERY busy people, so you will need to respect their time. Design a proposed mentorship arrangement that does not require a heavy time commitment by the Mentor. For example, a 10 minute phone call once a week, a 15 minutes skype meeting twice a month, or if they are willing, a 20-30 minute coffee meeting. Determine your ‘initial’ timeline - suggest 6 months or a year at the beginning. You can always ask to extend later once you have developed the relationship.
Be Ready to Hear ‘No’: Committing to a mentorship can seem like just another ‘thing to do’ on a long list of responsibilities for a busy executive. Help them to understand the value of the relationship for them. Often this is done through social media by following their work, commenting on their posts, or even asking how you can be of help to them within the mentorship. Reiterate that it will be a minimal time commitment at their convenience. Mentorships are often career enhancers for the Mentor as well, especially when it comes to performance evaluations. Relay that this is a temporary arrangement, and that you have specific goals you are trying to accomplish.
Be Ready to Hear ‘Yes’: When your future Mentor says ‘yes’ be ready! Establish the parameters of your relationship. Have multiple questions ready for each session - not too many- maybe 3 to 5 depending on the character of your Mentor. For example, you can ask them about what they feel and believe about certain career steps, and most importantly, what kind of decisions contributed most to their success. Make sure to listen more than you talk…
Enjoy your mentorship: Learning is one of the prominent steps before ‘doing’. Remain excited with the time you are devoting to the mentorship. Continue to research new things that you want to learn about from your Mentor. Make sure to provide feedback and share your progress, successes, and ‘plans for the future’ with your Mentor.
Pay it Forward: One day, someone, much like you, may ask you to be their Mentor. What will you say?