While 76% of people would say that having a mentor is important, Olivet Nazarene University found that only 37% actually have one.
Finding a mentor and maintaining a relationship with them can be a challenge in even the best circumstances. It’s often difficult to make time between packed schedules, asking someone to invest in you can be intimidating, and actually finding a person you have an organic connection with isn’t as simple as just sending a LinkedIn message to someone whose career you admire. And now, there’s the added challenge of trying to do this all remotely.
Natasha Irani, Director of Global Business Systems at HashiCorp, is the first person to advocate for the impact mentorship can have on your life and career, but in a remote world, she recognizes that this comes with challenges.
“Finding mentors is hard,” Irani admits. “But keeping them is harder.” If you are looking for a mentor, be prepared to put in the work to show you are committed. The opportunities are there, but you have to be willing to take them.
Here’s what to keep in mind as you start your search for a mentor:
1. Pursue an organic connection
It’s essential that you have an organic, easy connection with your mentor. According to a study, “only 14% of mentor relationships started by asking someone to be their mentor. 61% of those relationships developed naturally.” A mentor should bring enthusiasm and interest to the relationship, not just professional advice. “You have to connect with the person, whether on the first meeting or gradually built through interaction,” says Irani. “When you have an organic connection, you start to exchange ideas more easily.”
2. Disregard labels
The responsibility of being a mentor can be intimidating, so don’t feel like you need to define the relationship. Asking someone to be your mentor might deter someone from agreeing to the commitment: “Try not to label it initially,” Irani urges, “people will be willing to give more because that weight of the responsibility on the mentor is less profound.” Someone can provide support and advice without feeling the weight of the expectations they might associate with being a mentor. “Put aside a mold,” Irani advises. “Start thinking about it from a learning perspective.” You could be missing out on establishing connections with people you least expect.
3. Be patient and proactive
“Be patient, it takes time,” says Irani. “Being a mentor is an investment.” Mentorship is similar to dating, you have to put some skin in the game to make it worth your while. You might meet with many people before you find a strong connection—it’s all part of the process. Even if you find the perfect person, trust has to be built over time, so don’t be discouraged! One of the most crucial components of a successful mentee/mentor relationship is responsibility: Mentors have the responsibility of providing guidance and encouragement, and mentees have the responsibility of being proactive and driving the relationship
4. Understand your values
Before rushing into find-my-mentor mode, be sure to spend some time thinking about what you truly want from the relationship and who you need to help facilitate your growth. Determine what matters most to you when it comes to approaching a difficult situation or developing your business goals. “Think about your value system and beliefs and the value system of who you are going to,” encourages Irani. A mentor doesn’t need to work in the same industry or have the same career path, but having an overlap in values will help ensure that their advice and guidance will be valuable and actionable. Not only do you need to identify your own values, you need to communicate them to your mentor.
Mentorship truly has the potential to make a difference in your career, so much so that studies have shown that mentees in a mentorship program were 5x more likely to be promoted and mentors were 6x more likely. Despite the remote-first world we’re networking in today, learn to leverage your connections and actively seek out that guiding relationship—then watch your career grow!
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