I recently hosted a webinar titled, “We Are Better Together!” where I presented evidence about the benefits of good workplace relationships. As I was talking about mentors and sponsors, one participant asked, “How do I get a mentor? Everyone here is so busy. I feel bad about asking.”
This is a valid concern. In many organizations, we are trying to do more with less. People’s time is stretched, and immediate problems get priority. Adding to the problem is the increasing reluctance of men to mentor women in the workplace. But mentors play an important role in career success and well-being, so I suggest following these evidence-based steps when looking for a mentor:
1. Just ask! Even if people are busy, they may value the opportunity to be a mentor. Giving to others makes work more meaningful. Mentoring someone may make stressful parts of the job more bearable.
2. Start small. Instead of asking someone to be your mentor, consider asking for advice about one specific thing. It is easier to say yes to a request for a 30-minute meeting to discuss a potential career opportunity than a long-term relationship. And a longer-term relationship may develop naturally from that initial meeting.
3. Consider mutual benefits. Both mentors and mentees benefit from mentoring relationships. When asking someone to be your mentor, discuss what they hope to get from the relationship.
4. Manage time well. Let potential mentors know that you value their time. Start with a clear understanding of both people’s goals for the relationship. Schedule meetings that have a specific purpose, and periodically check in to see how things are going.
5. Seek organizational support. Some organizations have a mentoring-friendly culture. When mentoring is valued and supported by the organization, finding a mentor is much easier. Asking your boss or human resources team for help in finding a mentor may allow you to tap into organizational support for mentoring.
By following these five steps you will be on your way to finding your very own mentor, or perhaps upgrading your existing mentor to a new one!