A few weeks ago, I’d written about the loneliness of entrepreneurship and finding people to talk to. In that post, I’d promised to write about finding mentors. I’ll try that today.
The thing about mentorship is that few people know what it exactly is. Young professionals don’t know what a mentor can do — apart from give advice, senior ones don’t know how to mentor — some slide down harmful psychoanalysis. Because a mentorship is a relationship between two people, there are hardly any universal standards. In a way, we are all winging it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while seeking mentorship:
Know what you want. This is important. Depending on where you are in your life, you might need something skill-based like a writing mentor or something behavioural like an entrepreneurship mentor. Spend time with yourself to understand where you need mentorship.
Explore what kind of mentor you need. Someone who validates you or someone who challenges you? Do you prefer your mentor be of a particular gender? Things like that.
Identify the right mentor. Look within your networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook / WhatsApp groups, social circles etc. Ideally, it’ll be best if it’s someone who has already done what you are hoping to do. I wouldn’t ask someone working at PWC how to run a small business, even if they’re head of the SMB vertical. 😛
Ask if they’ve mentored before. There is nothing wrong in you being their first mentee — everyone needs to start somewhere. But asking about their mentoring experience will help you set your expectations appropriately.
Try them out before engaging long-term. Have meetings. Discuss your issues. See if they really get you. Trust your instincts on this one. Don’t force yourself to work with someone who doesn’t feel right for you.
Keep at it. If they give you a tough assignment or say things you don’t like to hear, don’t bail. You asked for this, so stick to it. If it’s not what you asked for, say that to your mentor and recalibrate.
Re-evaluate from time to time. Have you met the goals of the mentorship, are you making progress, is the mentor helping, are you still on track? Measure your progress every three months and discuss your review with your mentor.
About asking for mentorship, be nice. More tips on this blog post.