By Jolly Mokorosi
Two questions I hear or get asked frequently from women wanting more out of their lives are where can I find a mentor and will you be my mentor. The second one is usually a quick ‘no’ or ‘let-me-get-back-to-you yes’. Simple. But the answer to the first largely depends on the person asking and can be approached with a number of strategies.
Why do you need a mentor?
When you decide you need a mentor and before you approach anyone ask yourself a critical question – why do I need a mentor. Put differently what are my expectations of this person, myself and this relationship? This will help you determine the strategies that will work best for the goal you are trying to achieve by getting a mentor. Sometimes the specific problem you are trying to solve does not actually need a mentor. It might have a different optimal solution.
Once this question is answered and you still think you need a mentor here are some approaches:
The work assigned mentor
Several workplaces have programs that assign you with a mentor in a number of capacities. They can be a bit more of a coach then a mentor. Typically they are a few levels of seniority above you but not too distant. They assist you to navigate your role and tend to be more technical. Your immediate superior often takes on this role or can assign you one if none has been.
Another is the sponsor/mentor. They might not even be in the same division or even the same company or group of companies. They leverage their experience and seniority to assist you climb the corporate ladder and even advocate for you at levels where you do not have influence. Some companies have programs where you get assigned such a mentor but, with God’s blessing, do not be shy to approach someone who you think fits the bill for you.
Jumping on the industry/professional body/women’s group bandwagon
Many industry and professional bodies have mentorship programs as well as women’s groups like the local business women’s body. If you are a member of any of these, find out if there are any current or future initiatives that tackle the need for mentors. This helped me secure one of my earlier mentors.
Degrees of separation
Sometimes finding a mentor is one or two people away. Approach your boss, family or even leaders in Church to ask who they think might fit the bill and if they could make the necessary introductions. I was recently seated with some business students at a conference. They asked me about getting mentors and I pointed them back to their lecturers. Turns out I knew some of their lecturers and in the one instance even served on a board with them. They had never seen their lecturers as anything beyond facilitators of their qualifications. In another instance I was approached by my sister to help someone find a mentor. After a long discussion and a meeting with the lady I had a good idea who I thought would fit the bill and connected the two.
You have not because you ask not
Remember in school when you saw a kid that you liked and wanted to be their friend? Mostly we didn’t think twice about approaching them and asking them for friendship. Much has changed since most of our childhoods but sometimes the simple lessons of childhood still hold water. Identify someone and ask them. Most of my mentors have been relationships that developed out of this strategy.
I got one on my knees
Pray, pray and pray some more. Our Father in heaven is able and willing. He hears our needs and answers our prayers. The right person will come along. I once desperately develop a relationship with a particular business woman that I admired and had no entry point (or at least one that would not make me look like a stalker). I prayed about it and left it in God’s hands. 2 years or so later I got the opportunity to be assigned as her mentee through a financial services women’s development program. Isn’t God just great?
Do you have a mentor? How did you find one? How would you advise others to find one? Leave a comment below.
Verse: James 4:2-3