I coach people from all walks of life and who are in all stages of life. In the past six months I’ve coached (among many others) a university student, a young woman in the early stages of her career, a leader who is winding down her career and thinking about life beyond her current full time demanding role, and a guy who wants to grow his medium-sized business of 35 staff into a national venture.
One of the pieces of advice I regularly offer to my coaching clients is to connect with a mentor. Huh? Why would they need mentoring if they’re already getting coaching, you might ask? Well mentoring and coaching are different beasts… I mean, resources. They offer different value.
As a coach I help people who want to get clarity, make a big decision (like, ‘do I stay in this line of work or switch careers?’) or who are feeling stuck or at a crossroads. We work together for anything from three months to a year. We start by understanding the clients’ strengths and getting clear on the challenges they want to tackle or the decisions they want to make. We create a clear plan that has measurable milestones, so they know how they need to apply their strengths and focus to achieve their goals. We revisit their progress at each session, celebrate their successes and brainstorm how they can tackle any challenges that are still in their way. There’s a reason elite athletes have a coach; it’s how they go from great to outstanding in their field.
A mentor is an advisor or a knowledgeable person who can share their wisdom with you and can also connect you to the people or resources in their network. A mentor is usually in a leadership role of some sort and has a few years of professional experience under their belt. A great candidate for your next mentor will have a good professional network themselves and will be highly regarded in their field of work. Mentoring can really boost your career because you are ‘learning from a master’ (think
So how do you connect with a mentor? Here are my top three tips:
- Identify someone who you admire and think you could learn from. They might be someone in your professional network or in an organisation that you think does great work. Ask your manager, colleague or even you friends if they know of someone who would make a great mentor for you. If you’re new to a sector I’d suggest checking out LinkedIn. Make some connections with companies and individuals to expand your network and find someone who could be a great mentor.
- Get specific on what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship. Are you looking to find out more about a sector or a role from someone who is already doing the job? Are you wanting to build your confidence as a leader, or move to the next level of leadership? It’s important to know what you want from mentoring, so you know who to approach and what to ask for from them once they say yes.
- Respectfully approach them via LinkedIn or email. Asking someone to be a mentor is a bit like applying for a role as their mentee. Keep your email brief, professional and to the point. Let them know if someone else suggested them as a possible mentor, and why you are approaching them in particular. Finally ask them if they would consider providing you with mentoring, and if they don’t feel they are available or suitable, if they can recommend anyone else.
And finally, if you are someone who is experienced in your own field of work, why not offer to be a mentor to someone? Mentoring is a great learning opportunity for mentors as well. It gives you a chance to share what you know, help someone to get ahead in their career and it can give you a new perspective on the work that you do. Everyone wins.