Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Claudine Adeyemi, who is Founder and CEO at Career Ear and an Associate at Mishcon de Reya.
I have around four incredible mentors at the moment (and have had others over the years) and I have around eight I would consider mentees (and again have had many many more over the years) and I am often asked one of two things:
“Will you be my mentor?” and
“How do I find a good mentor?”
The answer to question 2 is usually “not by asking question number 1”
So how do you get yourself a mentor, and a good one at that?
Let’s first start by assuming that you know your strengths and areas in need of development, your goals, and the support you need to help you fly (delving into all this is probably a whole separate blog piece).
You’re scrolling on LinkedIn and you see Khloe Woods, the woman you met at that event last month. She’s in your field! Tick. She’s killing it in her career. Tick. She spoke to you about the importance of personal development and how passionate she is about making sure that young professionals develop their skills. Tick!
Next step. You send her a message:
“Dear Khloe, you may remember that we met at that event last month. I was wondering whether you would be my mentor?”
Now, I’m sure if you transport yourself into her shoes you can start to spot why this is unlikely to be the best strategy to finding a great mentor.
In my experience, the most successful and effective mentoring relationships are the ones that develop organically from a foundation of a strong relationship and clear acceptance between both sides that you’re a good fit for one another. So, the question is how to get to this stage?
What I’ve found is that most people are happy to help or support you if they can. Yes, the more senior they are, the more limited their time will be, but, on the whole, we are humans and generally get an internal satisfaction from helping others, even more so when it utilises our own experiences, skills and knowledge. So look out for people who you meet or are around you who can help and ask for help when you need it.
Found someone who can share their experience or knowledge that you will benefit from? If you can, meet with them. As much as we are all online, it absolutely remains the case that we build stronger relationships in person. If you need help, why not have the chat over a coffee or lunch? If distance or time prevents that, you can still jump on a call or video call.
Execute. Don’t ask for help, get advice and then do nothing with it. If the session was useful and allowed you to make decisions or think deeper about your particular challenge or your journey then take the appropriate steps.
Feedback. Once you’ve executed, report back! Whatever action you took or the result that arose, share that with your “mentor” (they’re probably not quite your mentor yet but we’re getting to that). Seeing you progress and even succeed will not only give them more satisfaction but will give them the confidence that it is worth investing their time in you.
Ask for more help. It’s unlikely that you’ve reached the end of your journey and no longer need any help. What’s the next step for you? What is the new challenge? Can they help? Ask!
Repeat steps 3 and 4.
By the second time you receive support from your “mentor” (if not after the very first session) you will know if they are going to be someone you want in your corner longer term and what value they can add. Keep repeating the steps, maybe if you don’t have a specific problem just arrange a catch up (you’ll likely find that you pick up some nuggets you didn’t know you needed) or just send them a progress update.
So when do they officially become your mentor?
Well that’s the hack. Once you have the relationship going, they are happy to support and you’ve decided that they will be able to keep adding value, there’s no need to ask “will you be my mentor?” By now they will have become your mentor without them even realising! (Currently realising that my mentors will discover that I hacked my way into their lives! Hehehe.)
The beauty of mentoring relationships is that it’s all in the relationship. I’ve found that I am able to add value to my mentors too these days and would describe many of them as friends now because we built a strong, long-lasting relationship.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to find a mentor. Find people you want to build relationships with and who can add value to your journey to help you excel.