Mentorship can be a rewarding experience for mentor and mentee alike. In today’s corporate environment, the mentoring process offers an exchange of knowledge and experience for both participants and has proven to be beneficial for career advancement. However, the process is also a real commitment, that requires time, patience, and dedication.
As with any task or goal that is worthwhile, obtaining a mentor requires commitment and a growth mindset. It is important to be self-aware and be open to an honest and introspective dialogue. The benefits can be limitless. The first person you ask may not be available to mentor you, but if you continue to search for a mentor that aligns with your goals, you will eventually find one that says yes.
Maybe the mentor you seek is a more senior attorney who works at your law firm, or a seasoned professional who you met at a networking event or industry conference. Before you approach this individual and ask them to take you under their wing, make sure you have a good sense of how to ask—laying bare your expectations, and acknowledging the commitment you’re asking this individual to make on your behalf.
It Starts with Gratitude
Once you make some preliminary connection with your potential mentor, send an email asking them if they are willing to meet with you. Be clear about your intentions entering into this relationship.
It’s important that this initial message be grounded in a grateful attitude. You’re asking them for an investment of their time, and you shouldn’t act entitled to it. Instead, make it clear that you’re thankful for whatever time they can offer you.
On a related note: Be respectful and aware that your mentor has a lot of demands on their time already, whether professionally or personally. Avoid hasty follow-up emails if they don’t respond right away.
Also, when you email them, it’s okay to mention some of the reasons you think they’d be a good mentor, and to note your admiration of them—but don’t cross the line into “buttering them up.” Try to avoid listing all the bullet points from their resume in an effort to flatter.
In the Initial Meeting
When you meet with your mentor for the first time, you should focus on establishing a personal rapport and get to know each other’s backgrounds. Finding common interests can be beneficial to the mentor/mentee relationship. Next, create a foundation for communication that helps facilitate a free flow of thoughts and ideas, and establish a basis for trust and confidentiality.
Here are some additional tips for continued communication with your mentor:
- Be clear about what it is you’re looking for; guidance, coaching or to shadow them at their job.
- Ask your mentor how he or she would like to communicate; by phone, email, Skype, or in person?
- Commit to a regular schedule of meetings. Again, be mindful of your mentor’s time, but do try to set up a consistent meeting time—once a week, once a month, or whatever other rhythm you can agree on.
- Be willing to put in some work. Ask your mentor if they have any “homework” you should do between now and your next meeting—and whatever it is, take it seriously!
- Finally, remember that a potential mentor may simply not have the hours in the day to take you on right now, and this probably isn’t anything personal. Be gracious if they respectfully decline your request.
Identifying an individual who exemplifies a similar vision of success, and who you feel offers the experience and wisdom that you want to align yourself with, is worth the risk of asking. Use these tips to initiate a mentor/mentee relationship that will begin your journey.
To learn more about the value of workplace coaching and mentorship, contact the Loeb Leadership Development Group team today.