Do you have someone that you look to for advice?
Growing up I was told to always find an “advocate” or someone I could look to for advice. In high school, I would always have that one teacher or one older student who would look out after me or I would be able to comfortable ask them for guidance or feedback. Similar situation in college and now more importantly in the workforce. I am fortunate to have grown up in a household where my dad is in the same industry as I am. This allowed me to ask him questions about projects that I was working on but to also handle different situations. It shaped me into the person and employee that I am today and I am every so grateful. I know many of you might not be in that same situation as I was and that is totally okay. Even though I have that in my life, I still always found someone on my own to be my mentor for someone I could lean on. As a woman especially in Corporate America it is important to have an advocate and someone to talk to on how to deal with certain individuals or on how to grow your career. I’ve recently had a conversation with a few of my friends about having a mentor and I was surprised that so many people don’t have that mentor-like individual in their life.
So I was thinking…what can I do to help them? What have I learned along the way that I can help others not be afraid to ask for someone to be their advocate? That is the best part about having this opportunity to share real life examples on Elle’s Edit (thank you Dana!!). So let’s get to it!
This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. You have to have conversations with many individuals to get the right fit. Think of it as dating. There are going to be people that you instantly click with but feel like it isn’t going anywhere, you will meet people you just don’t get along with, and then you will get people that you know feels just right. What I’ve always done was find individuals through friends of friends or in most instances first removed coworkers. You want to have some mutual connection or someone you have clicked with previously. This is an easy way to ease into it before you just reach out to someone random. That can come later but I’m not even there yet and I’ve been in the workforce for 7 (omg ew I almost fainted) years!
First initiate the conversation by writing a short but sweet email saying something like I would like to set up time to connect and catchup or learn more about you and your career. It will feel uncomfortable to be “forward” but what are they going to say? No? I don’t want to talk to you? That will NEVER happen.
During the first initial conversation just have normal topics prepared. You can talk about your background, what you are working on, and what excites you in your career. You should highlight their accomplishments and what brought you to them. You can say I know you started your career x years ago, changed fields, gained exposure, and most recently accomplished x.. that really inspired me and I wanted to learn more about that and what got you to that part in your career. It is important to come prepared and make sure you talk about yourself but also bring it back to them. Always end it with I would love to stay in touch and have monthly or quarterly connects to stay connected. You will get the vibe immediately if they are interested in being your mentor without having to ask them if they want to be your mentor.
schedule monthly “coffee” chats.
These conversations are really important to keep up that relationship. You want to update them on what you’ve been working on, your goals (current and future), and anything else you want to discuss. The first initial conversations still might be a bit awkward but soon they will be more involved in the conversation and give their point of view. After every conversation continue thanking them for their time and mentorship. You can throw in the “mentorship” word and they will immediately pick up on what you are doing without having that “can you be my mentor” conversation.
ask for them to be a reference.
This is really only necessary if you are applying for a new job within your company or a job outside of your company. If you are looking to switch jobs you likely have brought this up to them before as it should be a talking point in previous conversations. One piece of advise is if this mentor is in your company I would be careful of what you tell them about not liking your job / wanting to leave the company. You don’t know who these individuals talk to and you should be careful. Always word things as I want to be challenged and I want to learn and not be bored in my current role. Never say you don’t like your manager or you don’t like what you’re doing. Putting a positive (yet realistic) spin on it is critical.
update them on big achievements but also mistakes.
This person should know everything that you are doing your job. You should tell them about what you accomplished as they can give you other things to consider / do to keep you being challenged but you should also tell them your failures or what you’ve done wrong. These individuals are your coach but also your biggest advocate. Most likely they have gone through what you have gone through or the mistakes that you’ve made. You can learn from one another and it is nice talking to someone that has been there without judging you or being your boss. Always end the conversations with how can I learn from this (both good and bad experiences) and how should I approach this in the future.
ask what you could do for them.
You kind of want this relationship as a two way street. Kind of like a friendship or a romantic relationship. Sure they are your mentor but think about the time they are putting in to speak to you and be there for you. You want it to be a bit balanced so make sure you talk to them about them because you will always learn that way too. Positive reinforcement is great and telling them how much you appreciate them and the time they have put into this.
Do you have a mentor?
Thanks for reading Elle’s Edit. If you have any topics that you would like for me to discuss, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you! xo