Mentorship at work can be so amazingly powerful for your career.
I've had some amazing mentors in my career (still do!), and they've helped me with all the big decisions I've made.
Mentorship can take time, but once you get to grip with these three top tips, you'll know exactly how to get the mentor that's right for you! One of my clients at a large bank used my step-by-step guide to:
1. Do your homework about mentors: As they say, every day is a school day, but in reality - that means homework.
My client first did her homework on who mattered to her promotion, where they were in the business, the projects that were top of mind for them - and where she had any overlap with them. She used LinkedIn, but also just a regular Google Search on their names. She saw them both speak in public forums to get a sense of what they were interested in. This all made her eventual approach to them much smoother - as she could link her clients with theirs, by saying:
‘In that presentation you mentioned X’ or ‘I see you from the company newsletter that you will be working with Y client? I’ve worked with them last year, I’d love to hear more about that project, so wondered if you’d like a coffee where we could discuss their priorities.'
2. Don’t ask for mentoring: This may sound odd as that’s the whole point of what we’re talking about - but you don’t necessarily have to ask as the term itself can often be off-putting for people.
The ‘homework’ another client did when she was thinking about mentoring came in handy when she saw that the guy she wanted mentoring from was sponsoring a charitable fun run for the company. She was into fitness - so signed up and joined the company team, which gave her plenty of time to get to know him as an informal mentor. She’d never asked him for mentoring, but routinely asked him if she could ‘run an idea past him’ or ‘understand his point of view on an 'issue she as having’.
As they got to know each other, she’d ask him more about his career trajectory - which made her think more widely about her own. So 6 months later, when he was looking to expand his team - he approached her as to whether she’d jump teams. And because during all their runs, she’d learned more about his team - she decided it was move worth making - even though she hadn’t known much about his area of work before she’d ever thought of mentoring.
3. Give mentors feedback: At work, everyone is busy - particularly the types of people you want mentoring from. One of the most dispiriting things I hear from mentors on the mentorship programs I help run for companies is when I ask a mentor ‘What do you think your mentee is getting from the relationship?’
If they answer with the 3 words that kill me: ‘I don’t know’ - that’s a sure sign to me that mentee is at risk of losing the relationship.
The best way to ensure a mentor stays engaged and goes onto becomes one of your sponsors is to give them feedback - even if it’s challenging. Don’t lie and say it’s valuable if it isn’t. Instead, focus on what is useful - even if all that you got out of it was hearing about a different perspective. Say:
‘I really enjoyed our conversation about X, and since that talk I’ve done A and B. I remember you also mentioned doing C, but I think I need to give that a bit more time and think it through a bit more.’
There is nothing that will kill a mentoring relationship at work faster than having the mentor wonder: ‘What did she do with all my advice?’
People, even the most senior of people just want to be needed. Like all of us, they crave feedback. If they don’t get it, they’ll disengage - so tell them how you took their advice forward - and what they can do to further help.
Put in the work and you'll see the benefits of mentoring in the workplace - because remember, no one cares about your career as much as you do.
Now you know about mentorship in the workplace, you’re probably thinking… where do I start?
Well I’ve created “How to Find a Mentor in 5 Step” that is the best way to introduce mentoring into your day-to-day working life. I’ve given this advice to 1000s of clients, and it’s the easiest way to start. All you need to do is click and enter your email address.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Author, Speaker & Gender Balance Expert for 25+ years.
Hear what I told BBC Radio about what to do about the worsening gender pay gap data