Pick up your notebook, tablet, smartphone, computer, or planner, and write these words: make mentorship a priority.
Why Mentorship Matters
A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business found that women gained more social capital from affiliation with a high-status mentor than their male counterparts did. And, according to The Department of Labor reports, 57% of women participate in the workforce.
As the demographics “clocking in and out” continue to change, it is more important than ever for professionals to seek a mentor.
How to Approach a Potential Mentor
It can be intimidating to ask a senior leader for help and mentorship. So take a deep breath and use these steps to find a mentor and form a professional friendship.
- Identify potential mentors, asking yourself:
- Has this person shown an interest in me and my career?
- Has he/she/they shared professional knowledge in a supportive way?
- Does this person have the right knowledge/experience to help me on my career path?
- Fine-tune the ask – is it:
- Guidance on career pathing?
- Advice on promotion opportunities?
- Leadership training?
- Prep for the ask by:
- Scheduling time for an in-person meeting
- Preparing a laser-focused ask
- Confirming that you’re willing to put in the work when your mentor says, “yes, I’d love to mentor you”
- Map out a mentor/mentee plan – think about:
- 30, 60, 90-day benchmarks
- What success looks like
- Opportunities for introductions in their network
- What touchpoints you’d like and how to check-in
- Don’t forget to thank him/her/them
- Get to work!
The 5 Keys to Success
Like DJ Khaled’s major keys, but for mentorship.
- Create A Board
Create a personal board for mentorship, just like a company would, with a diverse group of board members. Having more perspectives to evaluate will help you make better decisions.
- Get Curious
Listen to advice from your mentor, but never stop asking “why”. Creating conversations (or even debates) is how you reach breakthroughs. It can lead to massive professional growth.
- Go All In
But make sure you identify your allies. If you’re stepping into a stretch role (the metaphorical deep-end), make sure you have someone who has your back (the metaphorical life vest).
- Be Confident
Realize the value of your perspective, and offer it up. We often feel like we’re “still figuring it out”, but your viewpoint could be helpful to someone else. Send a note, offer an opinion, book time for coffee — reach out.
- Build the Bridge
Help connect people across your network. Introduce a colleague or friend to another person who could learn from or help that person.
The Bottom Line on Mentorship
I’ve had multiple mentors during my time in school and throughout my career. Now, I mentor young professionals and am always happy to help when it comes to career exploration, resume writing, or simply lending an ear.
According to CATALYST, an organization focused on making workplaces work for women, 65% of women who have been mentored will go on to become mentors, perpetuating the positive mentorship cycle for women.
Use these tips, remember these keys, find your mentor, and as Edith Piaf said: “When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others.”