I have lots of mentors in my life. Career mentors, spiritual mentors, business mentors. These people speak into my life and help me when I’m struggling or need a wee bit of encouragement. I’m a huge fan of cross-generational relationships and being friends with people who are older and wiser...because hey, they’ve walked the hard road before so they may have some solid wisdom to impart.
My best friend has joked, “You are the queen of getting in a room and automatically gravitating towards the oldest woman there. You get along with older women so well.”
She’s not wrong. I’m an old soul, what can I say!?
Are you craving mentorship?
If you are, you’re like a LOT of my clients and followers. I get the question all the time,
“Okay Jena, I know I need a career mentor, but how do I actually find one?!”
While there are many ways to find a mentor, the biggest advice I have on this subject can be boiled down in one idea: You have to be the pursuer.
It is very rare that people will offer to mentor you in a formal-type setting. Unless your company creates those opportunities, you are pretty much on your own. And that’s a good thing! It allows you to scope out the scene and see who you click with. I actually recommend finding someone to mentor within your company and outside your company. The person inside your company can advocate for you for promotions, etc. and the person outside the company is a great sounding board to talk through internal politics about without the fear of getting fired.
“TWO!?!?” you’re probably thinking, “Jena, I can barely find one mentor!”
Well, here are some ways to find and “land” the mentor of your dreams.
“Force” someone to be your friend
I always make the joke that I force people to be friends with me. I’m like a lion. I spot my prey and attack! “You! You will be my friend!”
Okay, I’m not that aggressive, but I do have a very pursuer-type mentality when it comes to meeting mentors (and friends). Throughout my life, I’ve put in the effort to build, establish, and grow relationships with mentors in my life. Whether in my spiritual life or my career, I have prioritized having those influences. I know I can’t go it alone.
Perfect example: When I moved to Nashville, I was going to a bible study where I really started to admire the leader, Kristi McLelland. After class, I emailed her on a whim. I said I was new from NYC and would love to grab coffee if she had 30 minutes one day the following week. She took me up on the offer and ended up becoming a dear friend, someone I respect immensely as a woman of God, she’s been on my podcast, and ended up introducing me to my spiritual mentor, Debbie. But I can guarantee that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t reach out first.
Put yourself out there. At the end of the day, it’s just putting the human back into human resources.
Let people know you’re interested
If you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle you’d like to be mentored by...ask around! My manager at the NYSE introduced me to his wife. I told her I was interested in having a female career mentor and she introduced me to her Head of Sales. We became fast friends and still keep in touch today! She’s an amazing woman and we’ve both been able to support each other in our careers even though she’s a few steps ahead of me.
Here’s the other thing. If you aren’t telling anyone you’re interested in being mentored, how will a mentor be able to stand up and raise their hand for the job? They won’t! Plus an ask is just an ask. The worst thing that can happen is someone may say “Sorry, I don’t have time.”
So, let the people in your life know that you’re ready to take your career seriously….and that you need help along the way.
Pay for one
This is always an option. Often times, my clients call me their career mentor. If you can’t find someone you resonate with in the working world, hire a career coach. It doesn’t have to be me, but it should be someone you align with and who you believe could give you insight on where you’re hitting some speed bumps in your career. I would recommend someone in your similar field or who has had an impressive career of their own. Don’t hire a coach who has only been a coach. They will not have as much real-world experience to glean from.
Be okay with it being someone that is NOT your gender
I know my ladies want to have a female mentor. Someone who has shattered through the glass ceiling and been a champion in your field! Go for it! But don’t forget that there are also AMAZING men you can learn from.
Quite frankly, my best managers in my career (and subsequent mentors in my life) have been men. They were my advocates while I worked for them, supported me in my business, and send clients my way to this day. One of my managers from the NYSE actually supported me so fully that he knew I was looking for another job and let me take my interview with The Muse in his office! Talk about a good guy!
We still chat about life and his kids and business on a regular basis. It’s such a gift! Also ladies, the reality is we have a supply and demand issue. There are just less female leaders in top positions, so until we see more women leaders...you get the distinct privilege of getting wisdom from some amazing male leaders.
Same goes for my male readers. Just because you are a male doesn’t mean you should only seek out male mentors. A female leader who has risen up the ranks has a LOT to offer you, my friends.
Pay it forward
There was an alum I reached out to while attending Lehigh. He was the CFO of HBO. I didn’t realize how big of a deal he was at the time, but I emailed him and asked him for 30 minutes of his time to chat about his career. I was trying to decide if finance was for me. He was so kind and obliged and at the end I asked if I could do anything for him. His words?
“Pay it forward.”
I guess you could say I took it very seriously and ended up giving people career advice for my vocation. Regardless, he’s got an amazing point. If you want a mentor, be a mentor. Find someone at your company who you jive with and offer to be their official or unofficial career mentor if they are interested. It can be totally awkward, but we need some brave souls to stand up for the cause. Pay it forward and you’ll be surprised at the good mojo that will come back your way.
Was this helpful? I hope so! If so, reach out to me on LinkedIn and tell me your top takeaway…and who you’re going to reach out to be your career mentor!
How to Find a Career Mentor
October 22, 2019