Regardless of age, experience or accomplishments, a mentor relationship is valuable to professionals in all walks of life.
The dynamic offers valuable insight and guidance from a new perspective and is an essential tool in helping you thrive in your business.
However, establishing a mutually beneficial mentor relationship takes thoughtfulness and time. To avoid blindly following the first expert in your field that you find, you need to understand who your ideal mentor is, why you and that person would benefit from the mentorship, and how to initiate and cultivate the relationship.
Chances are, there are hundreds of people who could be your mentor based on simple qualifications alone, but finding the mentor that's best for you goes beyond working in the same industry or sharing similar job histories. It's important to seek out the individual who's right for you, your current needs and your future goals.
While it's easy to connect with a speaker at a conference and want them to be your mentor, don't act too fast. Learn as much as possible about those individuals you might want to serve as your mentor — who they are and what they’ve done — then reach out to start a relationship.
Whether your first step is making contact via LinkedIn or by email, be sure to introduce yourself and explain your intentions. If you don't hear back right away, don't be discouraged; the person likely receives dozens of emails per day. Instead, set a goal for yourself to stand out.
From an outside point of view, you might feel that only one person is your “ideal mentor.” Once you get to know them, though, you may realize this individual can't offer you as much as you first thought.
To avoid this situation, it's crucial to understand why you want your mentor to be the one that guides and advises you. Ask yourself what the purpose of the relationship is, how it will best serve you and how it will best serve your mentor. Identifying these items will help guide you to a strong mentor relationship that is beneficial to both parties.
After you’ve determined who the best mentor is for you, it's time to make it official. You need to establish your interest in them as a mentor, the purpose of the relationship and the time commitment involved with it.
Most people who are approached about mentoring tend to shy away because they assume it will go on in perpetuity.
To initiate a successful mentorship, start by telling them how much time and for how long you would like to meet — for example, you would like to meet once a month on a specific date and time for at least six months.
This way, it's a plan they can set on their calendar for months in advance. Continue to be thoughtful and respectful of the relationship.
A top practice for being a mentee is always reaching out to your mentor at least 48 hours in advance if you need to reschedule, and be sure to have the agenda set for each meeting. Remember, you are asking them for advice and guidance — make sure you’re worth their time.
Throughout this process, keep in mind that this is an opportunity for personal growth and experience for you.
To maximize your learning and the extent of your mentor relationship, you are going to have to be vulnerable. To make sure you have chemistry with your mentor and that you’re completely comfortable with them, be yourself.
The goal of your mentor-mentee relationship is to not only learn from the mentor, but to have the mentor learn from you. If your mentor is the right person for you, you both will be able to grow from each other's experiences, which makes for a strong working relationship.
Originally published on ThinkAdvisor. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.