Some employers are enlightened and value their employees sufficiently to provide them with a formal, professional mentoring program. However, even if your company doesn't provide such a benefit, it doesn't mean you can't find a mentor on your own. Look around you and seek out those people who inspire you or who have an excellent reputation for being good at what they do. Most people, when asked, will be willing to assist you in your career development.
Once you've identified one or more potential mentor candidates, the next step is to "interview" them to see if there is a "right fit". Interviewing a potential mentor is not a formal process. It's generally done by inviting the person to breakfast or lunch to ask for career advice. Once you get to that meeting, what kinds of things should you ask? Here are samples that might be helpful.
- You have an interesting background. What was your career path like?
- What motivated you to get into this field?
- May I ask who has been the most significant person in your career development and why?
- Were you ever mentored and what was that experience like?
- In term of your own career development, what do you wish you had done differently and why?
- If I wanted to develop the kind of expertise or skill that you have, how would you suggest I go about it?
- How do you define success? Has that changed over time?
- Have you mentored others in your career and what has been your experience in doing so?
At the end of the conversation, I always recommend asking whether you can contact that person again if you have other questions. If the answer is affirmative then it tells you this person is more likely to be open to possibly being your mentor.
After reflection, if this person is the person of choice, then contact them again and let them know that you found them very helpful in your prior discussion and would like to ask them if they would consider being your mentor. At the same time, offer some parameters for them to think about:
- I was thinking maybe meeting once a month over lunch/breakfast for about 1 1/2 hours
- I would welcome your thoughts on what would work for you in terms of meeting frequency
You may also find it helpful to consider reading up on mentoring or take our online course: Maximizing Success: Creating a Successful Mentoring Relationship.Image Credit: © Denis Raev | Dreamstime.com